FO: Crescent Over Lothlorien and The Dewberry Cowl

The Crescent Over Lothlorien Shawl was the first thing I knit from my 2015 holiday gift list. So pleased with how it turned out.   FO: Crescent Over Lothlorien and Dewberry Cowl  - withwool.com

I decided to go all out with my gift knitting for Christmas 2015. The list started out small - less than 5 pieces - before growing and growing and growing just a little bit more. When all was said and done, I had knit a shawl, a cowl, a hat, 4 washcloths, a pair of slippers, 2 pairs of wrist cuffs, a bear & bunny duo, and one golden bear. Plus, there was that skein of handspun. This was a pretty ambitious list considering that I skipped holiday gift knitting the previous years. I’m pretty sure the only reason I was able to get everything done was because I’d committed to #yearofmaking, and had built a habit of making something every day. Even a few stitches a day can add up to something really big.

The Crescent Over Lothlorien Shawl was the first thing I knit from my 2015 holiday gift list. So pleased with how it turned out.   FO: Crescent Over Lothlorien and Dewberry Cowl  - withwool.com
The Crescent Over Lothlorien Shawl was the first thing I knit from my 2015 holiday gift list. So pleased with how it turned out.   FO: Crescent Over Lothlorien and Dewberry Cowl  - withwool.com

What do you knit for the lace knitter that loves fantasy and general geekery? Fantasy themed lace, of course! The Crescent Over Lothlorien Shawl fit the bill, and had the added bonus of a reversible stitch pattern. 

I had a few hiccups reading the pattern and had to rip out a few times - once all the way back to the beginning - but the knitting was fairly easy once I figured out the rhythm and quirks of the design. It was also my first time using Dream in Color Smooshy which was lovely. The shawl was also great tv knitting aside from that one time I really messed up the lace pattern. (Note to self: Don’t stay up to 2AM knitting lace. You’re just going to give yourself a headache and a giant time suck the next morning.)

The Crescent Over Lothlorien Shawl was the first thing I knit from my 2015 holiday gift list. So pleased with how it turned out.   FO: Crescent Over Lothlorien and Dewberry Cowl  - withwool.com

I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again, blocking is magic. Once the shawl was bound off with a ridiculously stretchy decrease bind off, it looked small and crumpled. Even knowing how blocking can transform a piece, I was still nervous that the finished shawl wouldn’t be a worthy gift. I needn't have worried. 

The shawl got a nice long soak before I stretched and pinned it to an inch of its life. Flexible blocking wires made shaping and pulling out the points so much simpler and quicker then working with only pins. Inserting the wires and shaping the shawl still took at least 30 minutes though. When that work was done, instead of a small and crumpled shawl, the crescent was long and delicate. The yarn overs had popped open, the columns were visible, and every leaf was distinct. Whew…

The Crescent Over Lothlorien Shawl was the first thing I knit from my 2015 holiday gift list. So pleased with how it turned out.   FO: Crescent Over Lothlorien and Dewberry Cowl  - withwool.com

Pattern: Crescent Over Lothlorien by Cordula Surmann-Schmitt 

Yarn: Dream in Color Smooshy - Icy Reception

Needles: US 4 (3.5mm) circulars

Date: September 12 - October 23, 2015

@Ravelry 

I've wanted to knit the Dewberry Cowl since I first saw it, and it was a perfect pattern for gift knitting.  FO: Crescent Over Lothlorien and Dewberry Cowl  - withwool.com

The second gift knit was the Dewberry Cowl which I've wanted to make since I first saw it. I like the combination of lace and garter stitch. I like the shape and how it’s worn. I liked how it could be a showcase for lots of different yarn. Plus, I thought the recipient would like it too which is always an important thing to consider when making gifts. Can’t just make stuff you like after all.

It was a pretty quick knit even considering that I had to rip it out - totally my own fault - and make it bigger. The pattern calls for an aran weight yarn, but I mistakenly picked out a DK weight instead. Mrs Crosby Carpet Bag is a beautiful silk wool single and I don’t regret picking it at all. 

I've wanted to knit the Dewberry Cowl since I first saw it, and it was a perfect pattern for gift knitting.  FO: Crescent Over Lothlorien and Dewberry Cowl  - withwool.com
I've wanted to knit the Dewberry Cowl since I first saw it, and it was a perfect pattern for gift knitting.  FO: Crescent Over Lothlorien and Dewberry Cowl  - withwool.com

Mailing these goodies off was hard but, I’ve got the patterns and plenty of worthy yarn. I already have the perfect skein picked out for my Dewberry.

Pattern: Dewberry by Hillary Smith Callis 

Yarn: 1 skein Mrs Crosby Carpet Bag - Hollywood Cerise

Needles: US 6 (4mm) circulars

Date: October 26 - November 4, 2015

@Ravelry

Looking Back At 2015

I’m usually not sentimental about the start of a new year, and the beginning of 2016 is no different. But I do like look back over the past year to see what I've accomplished, what to do in the new year, and what to be grateful for. 

 With Wool

I’ve kept a fairly consistent schedule writing, photographing, and designing for With Wool, but I wasn’t very dedicated. I frequently waited until the last minute or just hoped that an idea for something to write about would just fall into my lap - didn’t happen often. It was until October that I finally got serious and made the work a regular part of my routine. My goal was to spend 2 hours a day working on With Wool - be it designing patterns, writing tutorials, editing photos, putting together the newsletter, brainstorming, or learning about social media. Those 2 hours were occasionally hard to fill though they could expand to take up an entire day, like when I was releasing the Mosaic Sisters.

What about the numbers? In 2015, I self-published 2 patterns: The Cuddly Chevron Blanket in January and The Mosaic Sisters in December. Not a bad pair of end caps for this year. Behind the scenes, I also worked on a few others patterns that I’m looking forward to showing you in 2016. Hats! Socks! Color work! Oh my!

I wrote 51 blog posts, including this one. My favorite is How To Knit And Block A Giant Blanket In 47 Easy Steps. 19 posts were tutorials for knitting or spinning. I'm proudest of Mosaic Knitting 101 and of the long-tail cast on video tutorial. In total, I’m only 1 post short of managing 1 blog post for every week this year which sounds like an awesome goal to aim for next year.

2015 was also the year I got serious about sending out the With Wool Weekly newsletter every week. I’ve really come to enjoy putting it together and seeing it grow as the year progressed. Tomorrow, I’m sending out the 50th newsletter of the year, but it’s also the 54th newsletter since I started sending them out. Looking forward to seeing how to grows and changes. You can sign up here or through the sidebar to the right. 

#YearOfMaking

#yearofmaking was success! I made something on 352 days of 2015. Looking Back At 2015 - withwool.com

#yearofmaking was success! I made something on 352 days of 2015. Looking Back At 2015 - withwool.com

#YearOfMaking was my other major project this year. My only intention was to make something everyday, and post a photo of my progress to Instagram. I haven’t kept up with the photos lately, but I have kept making for the entire year. Some days, the only thing I made was dinner, but dinner still counts. There were times when I was sick, tired, or stuck on planes all day. I am proud to write that I only skipped 13 days. If I finish the year strong and I intend to, I’ll have made something 352 days this year which is nothing to sneeze at. 

After years of being a WIP, I finished my extra large Norma Blanket! Looking Back At 2015 - withwool.com

During those 352 days, I’ve done more and learned more than I would have otherwise. I finished knitting my first sweater and finished my extra large Norma Blanket. I spun yarn for Tour de Fleece and Spinzilla. I spun my first sock yarn and gained the confidence attempt spinning cashmereI spent a month drawing. I built cairns in the Arizona desert. I’ve hauled my camera all over San Francisco to practice photography. 

I finished my first sweater for myself, Amiga, thanks to #yearofmaking. Looking Back At 2015 - withwool.com

Deciding to do a #yearofmaking was a great last minute decision which is why I’m doing it again. While I’m glad I did a lot over the past year, I have one complaint. A lot of the time I felt like I was just going through the motions. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I want to spend this year learning and improving my skills. That’s why, I’m picking one thing focus on this time around.  2016 is about making art - not with yarn or fiber, but with pencils, ink, and markers. Maybe I’ll even learn to paint. There’s still going to plenty of yarn, but the urge to draw and make art everyday is something I can’t deny any longer.  

Looking back, 2015 has been a great year on all fronts. Here’s hoping that 2016 is even better! What are your plans for the new year? 

Lessons from 31 Days of #DrawingAugust

#AugustDrawing-Lessons.jpg

There’s been plenty of knitting going around here. I finished a sweater, put a few feet on a scarf, and worked on a few designs. While it feels great to have made progress and crossed a few things off my knitting list, August’s main project was #DrawingAugust. #DrawingAugust is pretty simple - draw every day and show your work. Thanks to the previous habit-building 212 days of #yearofmaking, drawing everyday was pretty easy. When I missed a day, I caught up on the next day which means I have 31 drawings tucked away in my sketch book. 

The hard part of this challenge wasn’t the drawing. It was showing my work. There were a few sketches that I was really proud of, and I couldn’t wait to post them to Instagram. But there were also a few that I would have rather hidden away. I’m a firm believer that once something goes online, it’s always online. The possibility that someone’s first impression of my work might not be the “perfect” one I want is rattling. Even though I’ve posted the less than perfect sketches this month, it didn’t get any easier. Here’s the thing though: I’d didn’t start #DrawingAugust with the intention of creating perfection. There’s no way I could have finished 31 sketches or even started the first if I had. #DrawingAugust was about the process, about learning, and about doing the work. I wasn’t chasing perfection; I was just trying to get better at drawing. 

31 days later I’m happy to say that my drawing skills did improve. I’m certainly more confident with a pen. I’ve also gotten past the idea that all of my sketches had to 100% accurate. That rule had been floating around in my head for years, and it wasn’t until I let it go that I realized how much it held me back. I knew I couldn’t accurately reproduce an object so there was no reason to try. Beginner or not, the idea that you have to chase perfection and achieve it every day can be the biggest stumbling block. You have to give yourself permission to fail so that you can keep trying day after day. 

Also, 20 - 30 minutes every day adds up. The bulk of my sketches took about 20 minutes from start to finish. Some might have only taken 5 and some might have take 45, but 20 minutes was the norm. 20 minutes a day might not seem like much, but that’s over 10 hours of work spread across the month. It’s time well spent.  

Now that it’s September, I’m moving on to a different daily project, but I’m not packing away the sketchbook. I was getting bored doing straight line drawing so I’m going to experiment and try different techniques and styles. Maybe I’ll have a full sketchbook by the end of the year.

223 Days of #YearOfMaking

Read more: Lessons from 50 Days of #YearOfMaking

Way back on January 1st when I started #yearofmaking, my goals were simple. I wanted to make something every day, learn new things, and improve my skills. To keep myself accountable, I’d post a photo of the day’s work to Instagram. Day 223 looks a lot different than Day 1. 

Over the past 7+ months, I’ve spun yarn, knit a lot, cooked many dinners, taken photos, written thousands of words, made videos, baked cakes, and doodled. I have photos and logs tracking everything I’ve made. Seeing those chains grow has helped me keep going. Sure, there are days that I didn’t make anything, but those days are rare. 

Making something every day is now a habit and I get a little fidgety if I haven’t done something by the end of the day. That’s not to say that I’m finishing something everyday. There’s no way I could keep up the pace if a project had to be complete by the time I went to bed. If I only knit 2 rows on sock, it counts. Building the habit of making is what was important. 

I’ve gotten a lot of good from #yearofmaking but it was starting to feeling like I was just going through the motions in June and July. Then Tour de Fleece happened. To get ready I set goals and picked a skill to focus on. After 3 dedicated weeks of spinning, my forward draft and handspun were much improved. I was even able to check “make sock yarn” off my spinning bucket list! Seeing that improvement put the excitement back into daily making. 

When Tour de Fleece ended, I went looking for something else to focus on. When I read about #DrawingAugust I knew I’d found my next goal. I’m now drawing every day and keeping the sketches simple so I can finish them in 15 - 30 minutes. Some drawings I’m really proud of and others I’m embarrassed to show, but they all go up. It’ll be nice to see how I’ve improved at the end of the month. Plus, this project has also been a good kick in the butt to finally watch all those online classes I’ve bought and never gotten around to watching. 

Instead of being separate projects, Tour de Fleece and #DrawingAugust brought intention back to #yearofmaking for me. At first, just making something every day was enough because I was building the habit. Once that intention was “complete”, I was still making things but I wasn’t learning or improving my skills. I needed a new intention to keep going or I was going to find reasons about why playing video games was a perfect use of all my free time. This month, improving my drawing is my motivation. These smaller goals are what’s going to keep me making to the end of the year.  

Say Hello To Señor Squid

Señor Squid was hanging out on the ocean floor and he was feeling kind of bored. 

Swimming through the inky depths wasn’t much fun and he wanted to see the sun.

He said good bye to his tentacled friends and quickly began to ascend. 

He waved hello to sea snails and avoided passing whales. 

Being eaten for dinner wasn’t part of the plan.

He swam and swam until he found a patch of clams.

They pointed him to a seaweed grove hidden in an underwater cove. 

He kept swimming after a nap even though he didn’t have a map.

He passed sharks, submarines, and fish as it was starting to look like he’d get his wish.

The water was brighter now and he was far from where he began. 

He’d reached the surface and was only just a little bit nervous.

With one eye above the waves he decided to keep being brave 

because the beach was within his reach.

Soon he touched the sand and gave the land another scan.

There was an octopus with an umbrella and he looked like an interesting fella. 

They said hello and got to know each other in the sun’s glow.

At this time, I walked by solo and they asked for a photo.

After the shot, Señor Squid let me in on his plan. 

I was only too glad to show him around as I picked him up from the ground. 

Between seeing the sights and the city lights, 

Señor Squid became a good friend and I’ll be sorry to see him descend.

When I cast on for Señor Squid, I’d just finished another project and was in the mood to make something fun and frivolous. The yarn had been wound and waiting for months along with the pattern, Inkling the Squid by Cate Carter-Evans. Then, once I started I just couldn’t stop. From the tip of the mantle to the last tentacle tip, I knit and assembled the whole thing in 8 days.

Knitting the squid was definitely fun, but also really finicky once I got to the tentacles. There were 2 strands of yarn at all times, an ever increasing number of almost-tentacles, and DPN’s sticking out all angles. Would I knit it again, knowing what I do now? Of course. The challenge of corralling DPN’s, seaming things just so, and learning basic intarsia was part of the fun. 

Oh all the things I’ve made during #yearofmaking, I’m most proud of Señor Squid. Knitting him required me to take my knitting skills and knowledge to another level of patience and detail. Looking forward to taking that step again with Horatio the Nautilus and Opus the Octopus

The Pattern: Inkling the Squid by Cate Carter-Evans

Yarn: Done Roving Yarns Frolicking Feet - Chartreuse (Body) and Knitted Wit Gumballs Fingering - Carbon (Underbelly and Tentacles)

Needles: 2.5 mm 

Dates: April 25 - May 3, 2015

@Ravelry

Lessons From 50 Days Of #YearOfMaking

During the last few months of 2014, I started hearing about #yearofmaking from Kim Werker. As I become familiar with the one rule behind the project - just make something everyday - I started seriously considering taking on the 365 day project. The only thing holding me back was my previous attempts at a daily projects. I’ve tried daily drawing and photography projects that topped out at 31 days but rarely kept up. 

So, why commit to 365 days of making then? Besides from reading about Kim Werker’s creative adventures, I also read about Crystal Moody’s. Her blog, documenting her daily attempts at drawing and making art, was the only one that I went back through the archives and read from the first post. Over 2014, I saw her art steadily improve and her thoughts about making art mature. I wanted to gain similar improvements for myself. I also just wanted to make stuff since I spent way too much of 2014 distracted by video games and stuff on the internet. I needed to knit, to spin, to draw, to make, and to learn again. 

On January 1st, 2015 the only rules I set for myself were to make something every day and post of a photo of to Instagram to keep myself accountable. I could make anything I wanted. On Day 1, I blocked a shawl. Day 4 saw me stacking cairns at a park in Arizona. Over the past 50 days I’ve knit socks, added inches to a cabled scarf, started doodling again, made lots of tasty food, practiced photography, and spun yarn. I haven’t missed a day so far, not even while I was sick, and it’s been an amazing part of my year.

Besides from making stuff, I also wanted to learn new things. So, what have I learned?

  • Making stuff is awesome and I rather like it. Simple? Yes, but I forgot during the funk that was 2014.

  • Accountability is key. If I wasn’t tracking my progress with Instagram and my Bullet Journal, I’m sure I would have slacked off and skipped a day here and there. Since I’m creating that record and making it public, I’m always thinking about what I’m going to be making which has been liberating instead of stifling. I’m not waiting for inspiration to find me, I’m going looking for it.

  • Variety is the spice of life. Looking through my photos, there are long streaks where I just knit on a pair of socks for a week at a time before getting bored. I don’t feel tied to any one project or craft. When I was bored of the socks, I switched over to spinning and got some lovely alpaca handspun when I finished. A few days ago, I felt like pulling out my sketchbook and doodling so that exactly what I did. Not tying myself to a specific craft is why I’m going to be able to make something 365+ days in a row. 

  • Keep learning. Once finished, that new pair of striped hand knit socks is going to be great. I’m also rather fond of the meditative process involved in knitting ribbing for that long but I’m not learning anything new. After the sock knitting excitement wore off, it felt like I was just calling it in. Tired? Don’t want to do anything? Knit on the sock, post a photo, done. Sometimes you need that but it gets boring day after day. Push yourself to try a new technique or a new skill. Doesn’t matter if that day’s making isn’t perfect. You still tried, made, and learned something new. 

  • Making is more than you do with your hands. Most of what I see when I search for the #yearofmaking and #yearofcreativehabits tags are physical items. There’s painting, knitting, soap making, scrapbooking, dinner, crochet, pottery, and the list goes on. What I don’t see are word counts for essays & stories, photography practice, or other less physical things. Are those things lacking because they’re harder to photograph? Is it because there’s a different group of people doing them? Is there a hashtag I haven’t heard about? I don’t know. What I do know is that making is an intention and a thought process. While the end result is different, whether I’m spinning alpaca or fiddling with the ISO and aperture on my camera, the creative drive is the same.

What am I going to learn in the next 50 days of #yearofmaking? No idea, but that’s what makes it exciting. 

2015 is the #YearOfMaking + Resources

I started seriously thinking about what my theme/word would be in 2015 last week. I can stick to a theme/word much better than I can to individual resolutions. (Learn more about the word idea here.) A few weeks ago I was pretty sure that 2015 would be the Year of Handspun but I wanted to do more than spin yarn, fun as it is. I also want to write, draw, knit, take photographs, and whatever else comes to mind. I want to become a better photographer. I want to learn and use my hands. 

One word just didn’t seem like enough to cover all of those things. I was wrong though because the perfect word, MAKE, snuck up and smacked me upside the head. Make will let me write, draw, spin, knit, or whatever. It’ll let me do things with my hands. It will help me research and learn. It will prod me get stuff done. It’ll make me happy. Mix all of that together and MAKE is a wonderful thing.

In order to get myself making January 1st and keep on going through December 31st, I’m going to do the #yearofmaking challenge. The only rule is to make something everyday whether it’s cooking a tasty dinner or updating my site or knitting a single row on a scarf. All are perfectly valid. To keep myself accountable, I’ll be posting a photo of the day’s progress to Instagram. Please call me out if I don’t post anything! There will also be the occasional blog post and, #yearofmaking will be the first thing on my to-do list. 

Resources To Start Your Own Year Of Making

#yearofmaking didn’t come from nothing. It’s been something that I’ve been thinking about for months since I came across Year of Creative Habits by Crystal Moody. Everyday she made something and everyday she posted it to her blog. I looked forward to reading about her journey and seeing her art so much that I went back to start from the very beginning. Her thoughts and questions on creativity and daily making are thought provoking and worth reading. 

Another resource that helped me make the final leap was Kim Werker’s new ebook, Year of Making. Werker recounts her own reasons for doing a Year of Making in 2014 and gives tips for starting and maintaining the making habit. Also included are several worksheets to help you figure out what your passions are, what you want to do during the year, and what you want to try. She also details an example spreadsheet to track your progress which I’ll definitely be using.

Shoot for progress, not perfection. - Elise Blaha

I also picked up this wonderful progress tracker from Elise Blaha which will give me get the pleasure of crossing out boxes and seeing a year’s worth of daily progress at a glance.

MAKE in 2015!