Thursday, January 16, 2014

New Blog

Please see my new blog, which combines all of my former separate blogs into one.

KarenDawn Designs

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Knitting for Me

My mother-in-law is a quilter. She sometimes has people ask her how much it would cost for her to make a quilt for them. She has just one price, no matter what size quilt: one million dollars. Usually there's a shocked look on the person's face, but then she explains. Quilting is her hobby. She loves to quilt. But she hates to feel pressure to quilt. That makes it more like work and less like fun. She doesn't want to quilt on deadlines. She also wants to quilt whatever she wants to quilt and not what someone has asked her to do.

I completely understand. And I've been thinking more and more about this lately. You see, knitting is my hobby. It is the thing that I do to de-stress. The thing I do that I enjoy. I love to take beautiful yarn and make it into something fabulous. After a while, I started making so many fabulous things that even after giving many items as gifts, I was still having an abundance of finished items that I couldn't always use. So I decided to start selling some of my finished items.

My philosophy was simple at first. Knit what I want when I want. If I finish something and I don't want to keep it myself or give it as a gift, list it in my Etsy shop. But still knit whatever I wanted first without thinking about selling it while I was knitting.

That was how I started out and it worked well. I didn't make a lot of money selling items, but that was okay. Occasionally something would sell, and I would use the money to buy new yarn. Then something changed. I started reading a lot of the articles on Etsy and other places about ways to really get your stuff to sell and be able to quit your day job. I dreamed about knitting all day and making a living from it. And I stopped knitting what I wanted to knit and started knitting things that I thought might sell. I focused on smaller items so that I could finish more of them and have more to sell. I stopped using a lot of the beautiful hand-dyed yarn in my stash because selling something made from that yarn meant the price had to be really high. I started buying more workhorse types of yarn to use for the items I was making to sell. I even started to destash some of my beautiful yarn because I wasn't using it and I figured I could at least make some more money that way.

I was starting to think like running a business rather than just knitting as a hobby. I created a Facebook group and a Twitter account after reading books about social media marketing, and at first I worked really hard trying to build a following. It worked for a while. I started to sell a lot more. I also went to a couple of craft fairs and sold a few things. I rented a booth space in a shop downtown and again sold more things. But doing all of the marketing is a lot of work and it cut into my knitting time. And when Luke was born, that also cut into my knitting time (not that I am upset about that). For a while I had always still had at least one project that I was working on that was for me and not something to sell. I made that Ashfield cardigan, for example (and I'm looking forward to wearing it this fall and winter!). But for the past few months, that hasn't been happening. I've been focused almost solely on knitting stuff to sell.

I'm sure you've noticed that it has been a while since my last blog post. That's because I really haven't been knitting anything much that I've been truly excited about in the past few months. I did start a gorgeous shawl project (for me!) but that has been put aside as other knitting has taken its place. I haven't been updating my Ravelry page because I don't want to post the upteenth baby hat. I haven't been keeping up very much with new patterns or yarns that have been coming out. I've just been trying to churn out things that I can sell.

But let's face it. Am I selling items. Yes. Slowly, but I do have some sales. Am I making much money? No, not at all. I make a little more than what the yarn costs but I definitely don't make a very good hourly wage (I would say it would be measured as much less than $1 per hour). And I'm losing my desire to knit. It's getting a bit boring doing some quick easy items so I can get more listed to sell. What happened to wanting to always challenge myself and pick projects that taught me something new? When was the last time that I truly did that?

Today I decided to organize my yarn stash. I haven't been keeping up with Ravelry as much as I used to, so I wanted to check my stash against what I had listed in my stash on Ravelry. As I did so, I got to touch all of the yarn that has been sitting around in my closet waiting patiently for me but getting ignored over and over. There is some rather amazing yarn in that closet. 

Some of the fingering weight yarn in my stash
Some are single skeins and some are sweater quantities. Sweaters that I had already picked a pattern for but which I have never started. Patterns that I was really excited about when I picked them. Touching all of my yarn today made me realize what I've been missing. It made me wonder about the true joy that I used to have while knitting and which hasn't been there for a while. I've lost my focus. I'm not getting rich selling my knitting. Even if I truly do get really in depth into marketing and getting my knitting out there, I'm not going to get rich doing it. And getting rich isn't the goal. I started out with just wanting to find new homes for some of the things I had knit that I didn't use myself or give away to someone else. I just wanted to maybe get a little extra money in my PayPal account so I could buy more yarn. That was my goal.

I think this past year made me think that I could turn knitting into a job. I want to stay home with Luke. How can I do that while also bringing in some income? So I tried, but it hasn't worked out. In the past month, I've gone back into doing some editing and have gotten several freelance jobs. That has been bringing in money. That has allowed me to keep staying home with Luke. More than ever, I need knitting as a break and a way to relieve stress. Instead, knitting has become stressful.

I do have two craft fairs coming up in November. I do want to knit some more hats and monsters for those craft fairs. So for the next month, I will still focus on knitting items to sell. But after that, I'm reclaiming knitting for myself. I'm going to get back to my queue on Ravelry and knit the things that got me excited when I first saw them. I'm going to dig into my stash and pull out that skein of JulieSpins that has been sitting around neglected for far too long. And I will still make things to sell or rather sell things I make (don't worry about that, Linda!), but I'm not going to let selling be my focus. Knitting needs to be my focus. Knitting for fun. Knitting to expand my skills. Knitting as a hobby. Hobby not job. Editing is my job. Teaching is my job. Knitting is my hobby. I need to remember that.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Finished Projects and New Model

I've finished a few projects lately, started quite a few projects lately, and finally updated some pictures so I can post about them. First the finished projects:

I finished the Ashfield Cardigan quite a while back (April 14), but for some reason I just never got around to taking finished project pictures, so here are a few of those:

By the way, what do you think of my new model? I got her yesterday (she needs a name). I've been looking for various display options for my booth at Main Street Artisans and I found this dress form for about 1/3 the cost of a brand new one. It definitely makes taking pictures of finished projects a lot easier. I guess I'll have to go up to the store once it opens (August) to take pictures of items because this is so much better than what I've done before (see scarf and shawl pictures below).

I also finished a shawl: Herbivore from Stephen West. I started it back in March during a class at my LYS but it has been lingering, so I decided to really focus my concentration on it and get it finished. I did that this weekend, blocked it, and now it's dry and ready to wear. I haven't decided yet if I want to keep it for myself or try to sell it.

I've also been working on a scarf. But it's not just any scarf: it's a scarf that I designed myself. Back in September of last year, there was a design-your-own scarf class at my LYS and I went and started working on a scarf. But I put it aside (my son had recently been born) and didn't pick it back up again until recently. I changed a couple of things on the design, ripped out the couple of inches I had already knit, and started over. The result is something I'm quite happy about. It's currently undergoing pattern testing and once that is complete (the deadline is July 31), I'll have the pattern available on Ravelry. Until then, I give you pictures of my Criseyde scarf. (Criseyde is a character in one of Chaucer's poems. I plan to use medieval character/place names for all of my designs.)


I finished this hat back in May. It will be available for sale at Main Street Artisans.

I do have some items still in progress, but I think I'll leave this post as one of the finished items only. Now to get back to work on some of those projects still on the needles!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Dusting off the Spinning Wheel (and the blog)

This poor blog has been neglected. I have been knitting, but instead of posting about my knitting, I have been more interested in actually knitting these days. But I do want to keep a record of my work and so I'm going to try to be a little more consistent with the blog.

But the blog was nowhere near as dusty as my spinning wheel. The last time I used either wheel was shortly before Luke was born. Since I didn't think I would have much time to spin after he was born, I wanted to try to get stuff spun before he arrived. His 3-week early arrival meant that my planned spinning was cut short. Luke turned 10 months old yesterday. 10 months without spinning!

So today, I promised myself spinning time. Way back during the holiday season in 2010, I got a beautiful bit of alpaca to spin from my secret pal through our holiday exchange at my LYS. Beautiful and so soft. So very very soft (the picture doesn't do the softness justice).

I admit that I was nervous to spin it. What if I somehow ruined this lovely fiber. Besides, it felt so nice just to touch it. But I finally decided that I really wanted to see what kind of yarn it turned into. And I had a project in mind that I wanted to use it for (to knit a little stuffed alpaca!). So I spun the two singles a couple of weeks before Luke was born.

And there the yarn has sat for a little over 10 months. So today I plied the two singles together. It felt so glorious to be using my wheel again. And although I was just plied and not spinning from fiber (which I enjoy much more), I found it to be like riding a bike. My hands just remembered exactly what to do. Moving the pedals with my feet felt natural. Oh how I have missed this. The wheel will not be spending another 10 months unused and unloved. No way.

Plied together

On the niddy noddy: 89 times around which makes a bit over 130 yards

Taking its first bath.

The alpaca yarn is currently drying. I did overtwist it a bit but I'm hoping that I was able to get some of that out during the bathing (and whacking) process. I'm looking forward to it being dry to see how it feels. I'm sure it won't be as soft as it was as fiber, but I'm hoping that it will be a lovely yarn to use to knit my little stuffed alpaca.

In knitting news, I dusted off a project I had started just after Luke was born -- a scarf of my own design. I changed a couple of parts of the design, ripped out the couple of inches I had already done and started over with the updated design. I then wrote up the pattern (with a chart even!) and it is currently being test knitted by a group of fantastic volunteers on Ravelry. I'll post pictures and more details when I finish my own version and the pattern test knit has been completed.

I have quite a few other projects on the needles, but I haven't had a chance to take pictures of them yet, so I'll write more about them when I have pictures to accompany the post. For now, I feel good about doing some dusting today and am rewarding myself with some knitting time this evening. I have to finish that scarf--I can't let one of my test knitters finish theirs before me!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Hat, Bag and Bowls

In the past week I've been trying out some smaller projects, mostly to use up some of my bits of Malabrigo (because I have tons of bits of Malabrigo since I can't seem to stop myself from buying more all the time!) and also to get some different types of items for the shop (online and local) to see what customers might be interested in.

So this week I made a hat. I've done the pattern before (Amanda Hat--I wrote about starting this hat in the previous post) and thought that it would work well with the multicolored Malabrigo that I had. And I was right. I really like how this one turned out. I've taken it down to the Craft House, but if it doesn't sell within the next few months, then I just might take it back for myself.

With the leftovers of this yarn, I made a couple of small felted bowls. I've actually made three (two extra small and one small) but have felted only two. The third one will be felted the next time I do a jeans wash (which just might be today). The two bowls are also down at The Craft House. Sadly I took a quick picture and didn't really look at it before taking these to the store, and the picture did not turn out well at all. I'll post it anyway. Sorry about the really bad picture. Originally (and according to the pattern), the tops are not turned down, but I kinda liked them that way when I was setting them out to dry and I'm glad that I turned the tops down.

Finally I worked on a drawstring pouch. I've made some before, but this one is bigger than the previous ones. Once again, I used Malabrigo, in a purple color that I had used a little of for another project. I did an i-cord for the drawstring. This one, too, is at The Craft House.

So, speaking of The Craft House, while I was there today dropping off the new items, I took a few quick pictures of my booth.

Here's the whole thing. The wood structure was there and I picked this particular booth space because of it. I liked the various dowel rods coming off it to be able to hang stuff on. And those have definitely been useful.

Here's a closer view of the top of the booth. Hanging on the left are some socks, an infinity cowl, and a ruffled scarf. Hanging on the right are a baby cardigan, and just below the frame of this picture, the Amanda hat and a cropped cardigan. I strung some yarn between two posts at the top and using clothespins, I hung two shawls, some dishcloths, and the drawstring pouches. On the shelf below that is a basket with some baby hats inside with two attached to the outside. On the next shelf, just out of this picture is the cloche hat on the styrofoam head. And that should be all the knitted stuff. (I'll detail the sewn items on my sewing blog.)
So although they were smaller projects, it's been a good knitting week, I feel. I've been going through various books on my shelf looking for some of these smaller projects to use up some of my yarn, so I'll be trying out some other items over the next few weeks.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Dishcloths, Hat, Shawl, and the Stalled Cardigan

We're having an unseasonably warm end of winter/start of spring and so my knitting has been feeling the effects of the warmer temperatures. I do usually still knit as usual, and with wool, in the warm weather, but for some reason I haven't been feeling much like it so far this year.

So I pulled out my stash of Knit Picks Dishie (100% cotton) and decided to make some dishcloths, by trying out various stitch patterns. Actually, I started with making a little dishcloth-sized piece with eyelets with the idea that it could become my son's comfort object. The material would be something that could catch my scent and then eyelets and small size would make me feel more comfortable that he wouldn't smother himself with it. So far, I haven't really used it very much (finished about a week ago), but yesterday I started holding it while I'm nursing him and putting it in his crib with him during naps and nighttime. He doesn't really seem to have noticed it so far, but I'll keep trying.

After that is when I decided to make some dishcloths. Partly I wanted to try out new stitch patterns and partly I wanted to make some new inventory for my booth at The Craft House that wasn't so dependent on colder weather. I started with a simple chevron pattern which went really great until close to the end, when I apparently mixed up the rows and reversed the sides for 2-3 rows. To me it's quite noticeable but at the time of knitting, I decided it wasn't that bad and finished it up. Now, looking at it, I am unhappy with the result and think that I'll rip it out and either correct that part or just rip the whole thing and try another pattern.

Definitely plan to rip this out and correct it or knit something else

Then, for a bit of a little more mindless knitting, I decided to do the grandma's favorite dishcloth pattern. I got a bit hooked on this one (it's just so easy) and made several of them. I started with the blue I had used for the others but ran out toward the end so I bound off anyway and figured that I'd just use that one for myself. Then I made one in red, green, yellow, and pink. And I've started another one in a more spring green color. I did toss the first three in the washing machine and dryer to make sure they held up to washing before I put them up for sale and said that they could be machine washed and dried. And indeed, the yarn (and my knitting) held up just fine. So there are now four dishcloths available at my booth at The Craft House (I need to go and take a picture of my booth. I completely forgot to do that on Wednesday when I was there).

Oops! Ran out of yarn!

The start of the spring green washcloth and the colors of the other already finished washcloths (since I forgot to take pictures of them)

I decided to take a little break from the dishcloths and work on a hat using some multicolored Malabrigo that's been sitting in my stash for a little while. I'm doing the Amanda hat pattern. I made this once before and really liked how it looked, but I used a more solid (though still hand dyed) yarn. I thought that the stitch pattern might be really neat with the multicolored yarn. I'm only one pattern repeat into it (after the garter stitch brim) so it's hard to tell right now but I think it'll look nice. Most likely this will go into the shop, either on Etsy or at The Craft House, but I might hold onto it until the fall/winter when the weather gets colder again. (I actually plan to do this with several items so that I'll have inventory available then instead of scrambling to knit colder weather items until after the colder weather hits.)

I did start a new shawl project (this one to keep) using one of Stephen West's designs (Herbivore) and Malabrigo Sock in Solis. My LYS is running a class on any West design and this one had been in my queue for quite a while, so I decided to do it. The class has four meetings and we've had just one so far. I got a little bit into the shawl, though not very far, during the first class, but haven't picked it up since then. It's not a hard knit, but it is one that takes a little concentration, which I haven't has much of because my son hasn't been taking very good naps lately (the time I use to craft). But at least I'll have 6 more hours of class time to work on it.

As for the Ashfield cardigan. I'm still at the same point: almost finished with the first sleeve (I really have only a few more rounds and the bindoff to go) and just the second sleeve remaining. I need to wind the yarn for that second sleeve, which is one reason I have been putting it off. Today's a stay home day (which works out nicely since it looks like it's going to be a rainy day), so I think I'll make sure to get this yarn wound today so that I no longer have that as an excuse for not working on it.

And now the boy has woken from his nap, so I'd best go get him. Also, apologies for the not-so-great pictures. It's a rainy day here today but I really wanted to get this post written with some pictures added.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Quick Update

Eek! I haven't written an update on this blog for a while. I have been knitting this past month although I've also been doing a lot of sewing.

As for the Ashfield cardigan, I was working on it quite a bit and have the body, "button" band (in quotes because there aren't any buttons there), neck, and almost one full sleeve completed. I have about 2-3 inches left on one sleeve and then I'll just need to do the other sleeve. The cardigan will definitely need a good blocking, but the good news is that it seems to fit. I did add a few extra stitches for the sleeve because I've noticed that sometimes sleeves are a little too tight (I have quite flabby upper arms) and after trying on the sleeve, it was a good decision because I think it fits just about right.

My other knitting has consisted of more baby hats as I'll be selling some items at a local store downtown and need to build up a little more inventory. So far I'm working on hats that are 2x2 ribbing all the way up so that it will allow a baby to wear it for a longer period of time. I've done one in pink and another in pink with a brown stripe near the top. I'm currently working on one in royal blue.

I'm also planning on going through my partially used stash of yarn and finding all the bits that are wool (not superwash) that I don't think I'll use for other projects. Then I'm going to make some wool dryer balls from the yarn. These things seem to be all the rage these days and I'd like to try them out myself to see if they work.

My son is going to be waking up soon so no pictures for now, but I'll take some and write up another post in the next week to show off the hats, the cardigan progress, and perhaps even the dryer balls.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Ashfield Cardigan: Division for the Sleeves

Over the weekend I got to the point in the cardigan where I got to set aside the stitches for the sleeves. I always love this point when making a top down raglan because it's when I feel that the project actually starts to look like a sweater. So I got a little thrill of excitement when I got to that point and especially a few rows later when I can really see the shaping.

So then I'm supposed to knit two inches after the underarm before starting the shaping for the waist. I'm almost to that point. But before I start shaping, I want to get some measurements from myself to see if that's the best place to do the shaping. So that is my next step for today.

I also finished up the first ball of yarn (that's the point when I took the above picture) and have started the second (wrestling once again with my errant ball winder). That, too, makes me feel like I'm a good ways into this project. Hopefully I'll get in some good knitting time this evening when the baby goes to bed.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Quick Picture and Self-Reminder

No knitting time today (I used the brief time that I had today for some sewing) alas. But I did look at the pictures on my camera and I had forgotten that I had taken a picture of my gauge swatch in progress for the Ashfield Cardigan, so I thought that I would post that.

I also remembered that there was something that happened that I forgot to write about and I want to note it just as a reminder for myself. I need a new ball winder. My current ball winder has pretty much given up the ghost. Last year I was winding some difficult yarn and I think I stripped the gears in the winder or something to that effect. Ever since, it doesn't wind smoothy: sometimes when I turn the handle, I hear a horrible grinding noise and it doesn't take up any yarn. So winding balls of yarn has been less fun this past year. And winding just one skein of yarn to start the Ashfield was nearly torturous. For the last fourth of the skein, I just took it off the ball winder and wound it by hand because I was so frustrated with the ball winder. So I definitely need to make sure to remember to get a new one before I need to wind more yarn.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Finding Time to Knit

So last night I did indeed get through working on a swatch for the Ashfield Cardigan. I'll be honest. I rarely ever do swatches for projects. I know that I'm a fairly tight knitter, so I often use a size larger needle (unless the called for size seems right to me for that particular yarn) and just start the project. Most of what I've made fits just fine but there have been a couple of projects that probably would have benefited from doing a test swatch first.

So for my swatch for this cardigan, I went ahead and started up a needle size. The pattern called for size 4. With the MCN yarn that I'm using, it's very "plump" and I just really felt that a 4 would make the fabric too tight. If that was truly what got gauge, then I was going to need to choose another yarn for this pattern because this wouldn't be a good match. So I started with a size 5. And that seems to have worked. When I measured my swatch, I was pleased to see that I match both stitch gauge as well as row gauge (I often don't get row gauge and have to make some adjustments in projects). So I started in on the pattern.

The cardigan uses a raglan shape and starts at the neck. I've gotten down through row 8 on the lace chart, which starts after a bit of working on the neck. I didn't measure what I have and my WIP is out in the front room and I'm in the back of the house, but I think that's about a bit over an inch of the cardigan started. It doesn't yet look like much since it's still just a long piece that rolls back onto itself. But I'm loving the feel of the yarn and the fabric feels pretty good, although perhaps a bit tight (it's that "plump" MCN). I hope it will drape nicely. I'll be able to tell that better as I go along.

Now to the title of the post. Before I had my son, I would have considered today's progress rather meager. "I didn't get much time to knit today," I would have said. After having a baby, I consider today's progress to be really great. "I found quite a bit of time to knit today," is my new saying. But very little of that time was an extended period. Instead, I had my knitting out and available all day and whether my son was sleeping, I grabbed it and knit as much as I could. Sometimes that was half a row and sometimes it was more. And I got a decent chunk of time in after putting him to bed for the night. This is my new knitting life and it's not too shabby. I just have to make sure to keep track of where I am in the pattern so that I won't get messed up and have to frog back.

How does it feel to knit like this, in bits of time grabbed here and there? Sure, part of why I started knitting was to relax and have something to give me a break from the stress of grad school. Can knitting like this still be relaxing? Absolutely. Although I have one eye on the knitting and one eye on my son to see if he's still asleep, I do find myself unwinding during these moments that I caught today. I think it's like sleep after having a baby: your body starts to adjust to not getting long periods of sleep and also learns to fall asleep quickly when a moment for sleep does arrive. Although I'm still tired on some days, I'm surviving with the broken sleep (sometimes my son wakes once during the night and sometimes every hour or two), heck thriving even. My knitting life can do the same. And by doing so, I can actually have a knitting life. It just might take me a bit longer to finish the cardigan than it would have before having a baby. Or maybe not as I often got sidetracked on other projects. Now my focus is on one project (with perhaps one other project) at a time which might lead to more finished objects and fewer works in progress. So perhaps everything will actually even out in the end.