Craft studio organization

I did it. I ordered a new pattern notcher and tailors square last night on eBay just like I said I would. Not a spiritual experience but not completely without it’s merits.

shallow drawer cabinetI have been busy in my studio. Not too busy making new things, rather busy organizing. I picked up this cabinet at a local thrift store for $30 and it was well worth the investment. I’ve been looking for something, anything, with shallow drawers so I could start putting the punch cards for my knitting machine away and still be able to access them with a fair amount of ease. Originally I was looking for a cabinet like the kind used by architects to store plans which seem to come in two flavors: complete rotting trash or very spendy.

My cabinet is a little rough, it was clean except for a handful of jewelry findings though, and someday I plan on repairing the split wood on the top and shooting it with a nice white coat of paint along with some other mismatched pieces I’ve collected. For now though, it’s very necessary and I’m so pleased to now be able to use my crappy shelf for holding cones of yarn while the punch cards are safely nestled away inside shallow drawers. Mostly nestled away, there are still a few that stubbornly insist on being longer than the drawers so they have not quite found a home yet.

divider and sewing machine feetThe best part though is that I have an official home for my sewing machine feet thanks to the drawer dividers that came with the cabinet. Just by way of explanation, it might seem like I have a lot of presser feet for my sewing machine, but I actually have a lot of sewing machines at this point. I think nine or ten if we’re counting the two overlock machines. There’s a method to my madness because when I do production sewing I like to set up my machines to do separate tasks; I’ll have the Morse threaded for double needle top stitching and one of the Babylock machines set up for safety stitching and my Kenmore labelled Janome set up for applying cording and so on so that I just move around the room (or house, depending on how complex a project gets) in a circle with a pile of fabric bits until all the fabric bits are finished items. It makes the work go much faster with far fewer mistakes.

It’s interesting how organizing one pain in the neck mess leads to solutions for the next pain in the neck mess. The presser feet were occupying some Sterlite containers, now that the containers are freed up I can actually use them for other things if they are dishwasher safe, I’m hoping they are because they are in the dishwasher right now. If they are not dishwasher safe then please dismiss this paragraph. Forget I even wrote it. If the containers and lids do come out of the dishwasher intact I have plans for loading them up with some other sewing notions that have gone feral.

Mid-century hutchThis hutch thing was my previous addition. I like the mid-century molding on it but I absolutely love that it’s clearly homemade. When I get a new air-compressor, this will also end up being cleaned up and shot with a flat coat of white, but until then I’m just happy to use it. The top cubbies show you my notion and trim problem.

I swear I’m not a trim hoarder. It’s just when I buy a bag of notions at Goodwill (usually because I’m after one or two things in the bag) it will almost inevitably be stuffed with ric-rac and bias tape and I actually don’t think I can ever sew enough retro inspired aprons to use all of it up. Sometimes I freak out, load it all into a grocery bag and donate it all back.

I suspect I may have bought trims that I’ve donated more than once. I don’t know if discretely marking them as once mine would even be helpful since I’m usually after one or two things in the bag, I will decide to buy a bag regardless of all else if there’s a prize worth it at the bottom. I think the ladies at Goodwill have figured this out about me and see me coming, I’m pretty sure they intentionally distribute all the cool things equally among the bags when they put them together so that I’ll have to buy all the bags.

I’m sure of it. Read more »

Abandoned it

Quitting has a bad rap, some things should just not be finished and the vest out of woven squares of sock yarn was one of those things. I haven’t had the heart to dump it all in the trash, but after writing this post I will. I will put it in the trash and not look back.

I could have finished it out, seen it through. However, I feel as though I’ve learned the lesson that project was meant to teach me; mainly that when something is clearly going sideways I can quit and quitting can be healthy.

No. I am not comfortable with the idea at all. I can sit with my discomfort though.

In other news, I’ve been seriously researching my future career options. There was a time, around the same time I met Matt, that I didn’t even want to look at a sewing machine ever again. I was working my way through the custom garment industry taking the regular I-can’t-afford-fashion-school route doing alterations, making a few original garments here and there, custom sewing for friends and strippers, and taking on commissions. I got suckered. I got suckered hard and ended up investing my time and money and resources into a company that sought me out and ended up never being paid for my work, actually paying the business owners, and losing a bunch of tools that were kind of pointless for them to steal from me. In hindsight I had a special brand of vulnerable, naive and stupid that made it really easy for them to take advantage of me.

I almost ended up being homeless (having to move in with my mother and stepfather for 2 weeks was not fun) and broke, still a single mom. Same as before except what confidence I’d had in myself professionally as a custom seamer and tailor completely shattered and feeling humiliated.

Also, still missing those tools. They gave me back my sewing machines and kept a $6 notch punch. What kind of scum does that?

Monsters.

Professionally I’m in a state of suspension. I have gone back to home sewing and I still love designing, and I can pattern like a lady that has been drafting patterns her whole life. I’m also very good. Which is good because those are kind of the things I’m best at doing. And bad because going back towards any sewing related business is terrifying.

First, I’ve been out for over 15 years, which means that most of my contacts have gone out of business, moved on or died. I’m not great at making friends, I usually end up being friends with people who are awesome at making new friends. Making business contacts is sort of like making friends but worse, so much worse, because of the inherent selfishness of it and that makes me uncomfortable. You know those people that can smoothly work an exchange of business cards at the end of a first conversation? I am not one of those people.

If I have to make a LinkedIn profile, I’m screwed. I don’t think “making bored housewife crap” is an actual occupation for anyone but Martha Stewart.

Then there’s the issue of replacing my missing tools. You’d think in 15+ years I’d find a reason to replace a tailor’s square (it’s an L shaped ruler that is very similar to a carpenter’s square), assorted machine feet and accessories, a drill punch, a notch punch, curve sticks and a wooden yard stick. I would think that. Yeah, no. I am now going to make a concerted effort to buy replacements (note to self: buy pattern notch punch thingie on eBay after this blog post.) I have just very recently started to order manila paper and Swedish tracing paper (which I have very very recently learned is called mönsterpapper in Swedish and decided I have to drop that word way more in casual conversation because mönsterpapper is too much fun to say.) Also, the name Swedish tracing paper is very amusing to at least one Swedish person I know. Go figure.

I may have to learn CAD and Adobe Illustrator.

I’m worried that at my current age (which is 40) that my future career will be too short to merit the kind of investment in time, education, materials, and tools that I’ll need to be successful. It’s not like we have a nest egg that we can dip into, or massive disposable income. If I fail then it has very real consequences on our future retirement. However, I’ve been the stay-at-home partner and supported my husband’s business and it failed, and no one died because of it, but I don’t want to be in poverty again– ever. I don’t like risks like this but I don’t like making decisions based on my fears either.

I think I have about 2 years to research and study where I can go, regardless of how intimidating I find the process I think I would rather go forward and see what my options are in the industry. I don’t know that I’ll end up with a corner custom sewing shop again, or if I’ll find employment at a factory, or a gig as a costume mistress for a meandering troupe of acrobats. Maybe that’s what sits so poorly with me right now, is that I just don’t know so much and had I kept in the business I would know more.

Something different

I love my Loomettes. Weave-its are lovely of course, and I have a half dozen of them in various forms including the highly coveted Catalin Weave-it, but my very first Loomette feels more natural in my hand and I really appreciate the little slot at the start of the loom to hold the yarn.

Immediately after my small continuous loom buying binge on eBay a while back, where I went from zero small continuous weave looms to about a dozen (from four different manufacturers and spanning 4o years of small continuous weave loom manufacture) I made a lot of squares and many grand plans and one tiny placemat (or large blanket for a doll.) I’d planned to do a vest and pinned the basic shape onto my dress form and then promptly abandoned the project.

By the way, between then and now (somewhere in the middle-ish) I was actually officially diagnosed with ADHD and have been on medication to help improve my focus. I guess it’s nice to know that I don’t just have craft related ADHD but it spans through each aspect of my life.
Saturday morning I raided my studio for garage sale materials and while doing so realized that this vest project has been haunting me. How long has it been pinned onto my dress form: Two years? Almost three years? More than three years? When you forget how long ago you’ve started a project that’s probably a sign that it’s too long of a time for a project to occupy real estate without any progress at all.

loomette vest in progressNow seems like the right time to level up and either finish the vest or completely scrap it. Finishing it seemed like the best idea since I’m kind of on pause with other projects at the moment and I definitely need to clear my queue and make more space for actual work in my studio.

After the squares are all together in the basic vest shape, I’ll put it back on my dress form and baste some shaping into place. I have not tried machine sewing the squares together but I’m guessing that I will need to use one of my sergers for just the shaping. When that’s finished and I’m satisfied with the fit then I’ll start contemplating some nice borders (probably crochet, I’m keeping my options open) in the same navy blue yarn I’m using to sew the squares together. Fortunately I have a small bosom so absolutely square necklines suit me and I won’t have to fuss with the front.

The scary part about this is really that it sat for so long. In one night and part of today I’ve managed to get over half of the squares sewn together and I don’t want to say that I’ll be done with this in a week because that would be inviting some emergency that will demand all my time and attention (the universe and I have an understanding about how these things work) and make a liar out of me but I might be done very soon.

I’m in a rut

Lately all I’ve been hand knitting has been socks. That’s it, just socks. On my knitting machine I’ve knit lots of tams, a single (awesome) long ski hat, and a sweater vest. But hand knitting has all been socks. I think my knitting button is stuck on the default (which happens to be socks.)

I keep thinking I’m going to knit a sweater or a scarf, but I haven’t made or purchased yarn for either and I haven’t found a pattern or any inspiration for a pattern that’s grabbing me in the way it should.

Knitting in the ivory tower gets lonely

Because I’m pretty good at figuring out my average knitting dilemmas I didn’t really participate in a lot of different knitting forums and communities. And because I don’t know every little knittin’ thing I felt sort of helpless when it came to answering questions, especially because there are so many expert knitters that are far more articulate than I am.

Then comes along machine knitting which has sucked me right into the beating heart of Ravelry by dangling the largest most knowledgeable group of living machine knitters ever in front of me and forcing me to interact with them.

So that’s where I’ve been, figuring out how to post, upload photos and tag my projects, and realizing that pretty much everyone knows their way around the site better than I do. I know enough to know I don’t know a lot. When I’m not doing that I’m fiddling with my machines and trying to figure out what I don’t know I don’t know about using them. Try as I might to keep up with everything like blogging and vacuuming things that aren’t yarn related (like floors and window blinds) sometimes some things fall by the way side until I can get myself into a routine of some sort.

I’m just not there yet. I’m going through therapy and getting treatment for my ADHD and it does help, but it also brings to the fore that I am playing catch-up in a LOT of different areas now that my brain sort of functions.

Tension issues

tension issuesI knit the leg of the second sock too tight as the pattern repeats in my two skeins of yarn aren’t all that far off from each other and there’s a healthy 1/2 inch gap between the leg of the first sock and the length of the second.

The only way I’ll know for sure is to frog what I’ve knit and try again.

If you look closely you can see that the stripes on the sock in progress are almost two rounds wider in spots than the stripes on the first sock.

Lame.

So very lame.

 

Something different

knitting the toe

I managed to write and post from my iPhone over at YarnPorn this morning, but as soon as I logged in here I kind of lost the mojo. I’ve written and deleted this mornings post at least five times and my thumbs are getting sore, my eyes are straining and my spellcheck wants to change perfectly cogent ideas into perfectly cromulent ones.

Case in point, it thinks “cromulent” is more legit than “cogent”. I’m not sure I can handle this kind of criticism from the spellcheck any more and I can’t seem to access the drafts of this post that I saved.

While I don’t want to lose my momentum blogging, I’m at the point where I have to think about preserving my own mental health. To that end I’m going to post a picture and go have a nice frustration cry over a cup of tea.

I haven’t knit a sweater in a while

Knitting books

I’m running out of excuses for not knitting a sweater. I have pattern books. I have knitting needles.

My most valid excuse is that it’s difficult to buy yarn here and that only goes so far because I’m a spinner. I could legitmately claim a lack of time though; I do have Christmas gifts to finish, a whole craft room to unpack and organize.

Before I commit I am going to think about it for a while, I’ve been very good when it comes to finishing projects and don’t want to wind up with a UFO.

Second verse, same as the first

ircarus shawl in shetland wool

Gads, I just remembered that I hadn’t taken pics of my second Icarus shawl. It’s been a while since I finished it so I guess it’s time to remedy the situation.

This one is knit in 2-ply hand spun moorit Shetland wool.

It took me forever to spin that wool too. Forever.

Actually, it took about a month because my spinning wheel was being uncooperative. Considering that I can go through about two pounds of fiber a month with daily spinning and plying, to spin only 4 ounces of wool in a month is painfully slow.

My wheel is currently being far more cooperative so I’m back to a more regular spinning routine.

2nd teal tease sock being knitI’ve started the second sock in Serenity yarn and thinking I’m going to have to stock up on sock yarn soon, because I’m almost through my little stash.

I still have a couple of skeins of Paton’s crappy sock yarn but I don’t really want to go there. I kind of like having socks that match.

I only have it because JoAnns had a ridiculous sale price on the sock yarns a few months back and I was like “Oooh!” Even crappy sock yarn is a good deal when it’s less than a dollar a skein which is cheap enough for me to buy it knowing it’s horrible yarn so if nothing else I can use it to practice spinning core spun yarns.

 

One sock down, one to go

ready to graft toe of sockWhen I cast on a sock I usually knit with both the working strand and the tail for 3-4 stitches so I can avoid weaving in the tail. It’s a cool little trick that I think most knitters know, even if they choose not to use it.

I have a second trick for grafting off in order to avoid a lumpy loop at the side of the toe, I don’t knit that last stitch. I just slip it onto the needle after knitting all the others and start the Kitchener stitching through it.

Sneaky huh?

It works like a charm though and I don’t need to wait for time and wear to redistribute the freaky large loop yarn into the rest of the toe.

But wait! There’s more–

the finished sockWhen I get to the end of the open loops I go down a row and pull the working yarn in a little then go back up to the grafted row and weave across to make the seam just a little stronger. In solids the graft and then the weaving over are pretty much invisible, but with variegated yarns I console myself with the fact that no one except another knitter will closely inspect the toes of socks.

We will always turn knit things inside out and look at how they were made, that’s because knitters are crazy people.