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Life After Etsy October 18, 2013

Posted by J. in FYI, Genius, Sticks and String.
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I believe in handmade things.

I believe in the artisan movement.

I believe that things that are made with skill and care and attention to detail have more inherent value than anything made by a machine or on an assembly line.

I believe in art for art’s sake, even if I don’t understand it sometimes.

I believe there is a market for handmade artisan goods.

I believe I am not alone.

I’ve been on Etsy since it was just about to celebrate its first birthday, and in recent years I’ve found cause to rant about its policies as far as what handmade is, how they enforce it on their own site, and I’ve seen a tide creeping in slowly but steadily during that time.

When I opened my first shop, I was as new to internet sales as Etsy was. We were both still feeling our way along. As my knitting skills improved with much time and practice, I began to understand more and more what the artisan handmade movement was really about. I stopped looking at the things that came off my needles as mere objects that were utilitarian, no different than what you could buy in a retail outlet somewhere, and began to see each thing as an individual work of art.

Every stitch is made by my hands. I am an artist, and I work in fiber.

And as that realization grew in me and took hold, I grew as an artist. I embraced what I am.

Etsy did the same thing, seeing what it is and where it wanted to go. It embraced what it was becoming, only we grew apart. Etsy saw that their biggest selling vendors (and biggest source of income) were hitting a ceiling. Some of their policies meant that when a seller felt that they couldn’t grow any more on Etsy, they’d close up shop and leave to where they could have parts of their products manufactured. They could use drop-shipping to fill orders. They could hire help to produce product and fill orders.

That kind of growth is what makes this country great, don’t get me wrong. I believe in growing your business as far as you can.

But at some point, you have ceased to be handmade.

That’s a conundrum for Etsy. How do we claim to be a handmade site, yet keep these very lucrative sellers with us bringing in all their money?

We redefine what “handmade” means.

I don’t think hobby crafters will mind so much. Etsy is a terrific platform for folks who make things and want a great looking place to sell them. Etsy has a name now, and a reputation (or at least it did), and if you understand that you need to drive your own traffic to your own shop and don’t expect Etsy to promote you in any way, it’s great. Easy to use, very affordable, and you can look professional with very little effort.

Business crafters will be in heaven. The ceiling is gone. If you need to hire other hands to make your handmade items, if you want to have your creations mass produced in a factory, you can. Oh, there will be new rules and new caveats, but you are no longer hampered by having to run a one-person show.

It leaves artisans in the lurch. When you create art, whether it’s a painting, a fine aged cheddar, or an embroidered pair of baby booties, it is essentially a solitary process. It’s as much about the process of bringing an idea to life as it is about seeing the idea realized. It’s putting yourself into what you make, and it’s why paintings by fine artists sell for way more money than prints or reproductions of the same picture. The original is where the artist has left himself, in every brush stroke and line and shadow. It’s why you eat an artisan cheese slowly, tasting every bite, pairing it carefully with the right complementary flavors, as opposed to slapping a square of Cracker Barrel on a Triscuit and munching away while you watch football. And it’s why that pair of hand-embroidered booties gets packed away carefully in a cedar chest until the baby that outgrew them announces that they are expecting a child of their own, unlike the $10 pair that came from the Gap and went into the bag being donated to the Goodwill.

I believe that when you say something is handmade, that should mean something.

Etsy and I disagree on what that something is, and it’s why it’s time for us to part ways.

I’m in the process of opening my own online shop. Etsy has always served as my own personal craft fair and art gallery. I make whatever comes into my head, and Etsy gives me a place to show it off and maybe exchange it for a little cash. But I’d like to be more than a hobby knitter, and I think I have the skills to see that happen.

When I went to Seattle over the summer, my main reason for going was to check out the Urban Craft Uprising show and find out why I didn’t get in. It was eye-opening, for sure. It was a large hall, and it was full of artists and craftsmen. And my art was easily up to (and in some cases far beyond) anything I saw there. It was gratifying to see that if nothing else, I have the skills to compete at that level.

But I needed to see what the vendors that got in were doing that is so different from what I was. And about halfway through the show, it was starting to become clear. It was at the booth of a crafter who made all felted things. I was interested because I do a fair amount of felting myself. She had a very small line of items: vases, coasters, bowls, and some wall art. She used a limited palette of colors, and very simple designs. And I remarked at the time (out of earshot of the artist) that I didn’t think I could be that sort of crafter. I’d be bored to tears reproducing the same simple designs and colors all the time, and not being able to give my creativity free rein.

It was a common theme, too. Soap makers produced a small line of really good soap. A woman selling leather bags and cases had a limited number of sizes, and a very unified design theme. Jewelry makers created to a theme or a medium, like the one seller who embraced the 8-bit geekery of old video games, and another who worked in laser-cut wood. And every booth was like that. They made one thing, and they made it very well.

By the time we left, I knew that if I’m going to be an artist at that level, I need to focus. If I want to “quit my day job” and compete in that lucrative marketplace of artisan handmade, I need to figure out what I do well and concentrate on it. I don’t need to leave myself room to grow…I need to figure out how to keep myself in check!

I thought about it a lot, and there was a lot of discussion about what my focus should be. I can knit anything. It’s kind of a point of pride with me.

But looking at it from a business standpoint, my biggest seller and most popular item that I make, by far, are the knit booties with hand-embroidered soles. Without boring you with the numbers, focusing on booties is kind of a no-brainer from a business standpoint.

Creatively speaking, I could make them all day long. And lately, I do. Because every pair is different, and the only limit to what I stitch on them is my own imagination, when I say the possibilities are endless, I mean it. Even though they’re all the same, they’re all very different. It’s hard to get bored with them.

Using booties as the centerpiece, I added baby sweaters and hats under the same umbrella. I chose a palette of colors and a limited selection of styles that I’d produce. So rather than just booties, a customer could get a set, or individual pieces, and can always have something made and personalized just for them.

I’ve also found that less-traditional baby designs are wildly popular. Sure, the monkeys sell, and flowers and such. But a Killer Bunny with Big Teeth? Sold the minute I list it. Skulls? Can’t keep them in stock. Dragons? Sold. When I think of the expression, “This is not your grandma’s knitting,” it strikes me that many people my age *are* grandparents, and we’re defining what “grandma’s knitting” actually is.

So the new shop is called Sprogtoggery, and my focus is on baby things. I have a Facebook page started and ready to go, and the shop is just about ready to launch. I had a vendor supply issue getting buttons (because I insist on using artisan handmade buttons and not just any old thing you can get at Joanns) so I’m a bit behind getting sweaters finished. I hope to be open by November 1, God willing and the creek don’t rise.

My logo is simple, and when the graphic designer showed it to me, she had added the words “100% artisan handmade” under it, and that pulled it all together for me. That’s the focus, and the emphasis, and the whole reason I do what I do. I know that the artisan movement is alive and well, and it is because there are buyers out there who know that when you buy something handmade, you’re not just getting a “thing”. You are getting something special, something beautiful, and something worth preserving.

Now I have to get back to work. These ends aren’t going to weave themselves in, and there are no Chinese kids in my basement gonna do it for me…

I Got Your Holiday Bonus Right HERE December 16, 2012

Posted by J. in Genius, Sticks and String.
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It’s been quite a year for me, business-wise. Last year at this time, I was pretty close to reaching my emotional rock-bottom. My Etsy shop had been languishing, though the nice thing about Etsy is that you can keep stuff there for very little cash forever if you feel like it. And that’s all it was really doing.

Then I got me some happy pills and things looked a lot brighter. And my creative mojo–among other things–came back. I was making cool stuff again and feeling good about it. I opened two more Etsy shops to show off my creations. I started writing again, more seriously and every day, and on a whim I self-published a few books, more as a vanity exercise than anything else. And more than one friend on more than one occasion asked me the same basic question: why aren’t you famous?

I deflected the question a lot, for awhile. But as so often happens with friends, I have this one friend who didn’t let it go. He really refused to accept any of my excuses as to why I wasn’t throwing my time and energy behind promoting myself. He saw money to be made and saw no reason for me to not go after it.

I had to be honest with myself, and when I figured it all out, tell him that I hate self-promotion. I mean I loathe it. With every fiber of my being, I cannot abide telling anyone how great I am. I mean, I know I got some mad skillz, yo, but talking about it for real makes me all cringe-y inside. And as so often happens with friends, he wouldn’t let me get away with that either. He may actually have said, “Suck it up, cupcake,” or something to that effect.

We also discovered together how deeply my mental block against tackling big projects goes. He started listing all the things I should be doing to promote myself: you need to have a Twitter account–make that two, one for the knitting and one for the writing. You need to have a Facebook fan page that combines all three shops. You need to be posting to Facebook every day. You need to promote something every day. You need to blog. You need to write. You need to create new things. You need to write up your patterns…

I couldn’t handle it. I cried. Twice. Made him feel bad, too. Pushy bastard.

And it got him to back off, but only a little. Only enough to regroup and come at me in a way that wouldn’t overwhelm me. He took the time and the mental energy to form a big picture of what needed to be done and then handed it to me in small bites. He never let me see the whole thing, just gave me a task to do and when it was done, praised me, and gave me another one. And he did this over and over until I was doing the things I needed to do as part of a daily routine.

It seems like a small thing when I say it that way, but make no mistake: it’s not. I’ve given up on so many things, or not even started them in the first place because I couldn’t break the big picture down into bits that I could handle. I never had anyone behind me pushing me when I didn’t want to keep going. He let me rest and whine and bitch about it when I needed to, and then he kicked my ass into gear so that I would keep going. And I’ve kept going all year long. And not once did he ever do it with anything other than good humor and calm resolve.

We started joking about his role and we kept referring to him as my PR advisor because with all the work he’s been doing to help me promote my self-image and brand myself he certainly deserved a title of some sort. But a couple of weeks ago as I was looking at my full page list of special orders that I have only because I’ve been promoting the hell out of myself at his constant and unrelenting urging, I promoted him to Vice President of Public Relations. It’s a heady title, and someday when I can afford to, I’m going to make sure Bill has a corner office and an unlimited expense account. And his holiday bonus is going to involve either the corporate jet staffed with sexually permissive and scantily clad beer wenches and  an offshore account in the Cayman Islands, or the corporate condo in Vegas full of hookers and blow. Maybe both.

So I was sitting here at my desk knitting away like a squirrel on crack working my way through my many orders, watching the Netflix on the computer. I was viewing my way through the entire series of Arrested Development when I noticed in one of the episodes that the character of Tobias Fünke had on a green sweater with a gray skull motif on it. And I wondered if such a sweater pattern existed. To the Google!

This is the cardigan in question. I'm still pretty sure I could make this, and don't think I won't.

This is the cardigan in question. I’m still pretty sure I could make this, and don’t you think I won’t, mister.

But while I was looking for that sweater, I found pictures of a plush Tobias doll that an Etsy artist made. It was glorious. I went to her shop looking for it, knowing Bill’s love of Arrested Development surpasses my own, and that his imitation of Tobias’ line “I just blue myself” is unrivaled. He needed that doll. It was going to be his Christmas bonus from me, the CEO and talent behind the Fiber Arts Empire. I could feel it. It was meant to be!

But it was not in her shop! Fuck a duck. I sat here and looked at the picture of that doll on my computer monitor and then something caught my eye. It looked something like this:

I call him Leering Bill. Long story.

I call him Leering Bill. Long story.

Leering Bill started as a plush toy.

You know where this is going, don’t you? I dove into my stash looking for some blue yarn and I set to building up those single crochets. I took a break only long enough to order a recordable voice box from Amazon–the kind you put in a teddy bear. It got here and I recorded a short 10-second clip from Arrested Development of Tobias saying the immortal lines:

I crammed it up his ass, finished him off with blue cutoffs and little felt glasses, and I have to admit, I’m pretty pleased with how it came out.

Tobias Fünke, Analrapist, never-nude, and Blue Man Group understudy. Sort of. Lovingly rendered in wool and felt.

Tobias Fünke, Analrapist, never-nude, and Blue Man Group understudy (sort of). Lovingly rendered in wool and felt.

Now here’s hoping that as the Empire grows and expands that the rest of my new hires will be as content as Bill with a bit of crocheted fuckery as a holiday bonus. At least until I can afford the hot tub full of Cristal and the cabana boys with low morals and mercenary motivations.

Merry Christmas, Bill. And thanks for all your help this year. I honestly couldn’t have done it without you. You’re a gem.

 

Makin’ Mittens November 2, 2012

Posted by J. in Genius, Sticks and String.
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So, I didn’t sign up to do any craft fairs this winter. In past years, setting up a table somewhere has been fairly lucrative for me, and I would make more at one high school or church fair than I would selling online all year. Two years ago, though, the economy tanked and craft fair business slowed, but I held my own and still did pretty well at a few of them. Last year was dismal. I barely made my table fees back, and that’s a long day sitting there knitting only to go home with more product than you arrived with.

I wasn’t going to do any this year at all because my online sales have taken off, and I was thinking that other than one potentially major show next summer which is juried and would be fantastic exposure for me, I’d stop doing fairs. But I got an application via email and have decided to do one local show. It’s more of a Christmas shop, really.

Clough Tavern Farm in Canterbury does a Christmas show of sorts. They decorate the big 1777 farm house and fill five of the rooms with things made my local artisans. It’s a drop-off/pick-up kind of show–I just tag my stuff and collect my money at the end, and I figured why not. Only I realized I don’t have a vast array of product that’s ready to sell. Sort of a motley collection of things, really.

This was going to be a problem.

I decided to make a bunch of my best-selling felted mittens. Honestly, as soon as I make them, they sell. I can’t keep them in stock.

I created the pattern myself, basically adapting my own mitten pattern to translate to felting. You can buy it if you want. It’s an easy pattern to use, I think, and you can do anything with it you can dream up.

The mittens are knit really big because they shrink in the felting process.

HUGE.

Then they go in the washing machine. I wash them in hot water with a wee bit of detergent and a couple pair of Larry’s jeans for agitation, and run them through wash cycles until they’re the right size.

Before felting on the left, after felting on the right.

Sometimes they come out a bit hairy and need to be trimmed.

Untrimmed on the left, neatened up on the right.

Now, they just need to be embellished. Or not. I mean, you can leave them plain. I do not. I DECORATE.

I use felt applique, beads, buttons, embroidery floss, knit and crocheted flowers, and needle felting. I’ve sewn on lace and ribbons. Whatever suits the mitten.

Appliqued felt owls.

Embroidered trees.

Needle-felted balloons.

I’d like to have at least 8 pair ready for the sale, plus a few odds and ends of stock I already have. I think I’ve got a good start!

Back in the Saddle October 18, 2012

Posted by J. in Sticks and String.
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This morning I was sitting here and my dusty spinning wheel caught my eye. It sits here in the kitchen beside my desk, and I was trying to remember the last time I used it. There was a brown bit of roving on it that I actually had to look up in my records to see what the fiber is.

In case you were wondering, turns out it’s an alpaca combed top. It’s the softest thing I’ve ever had in my hands. Just dreamy to spin, as I recall.

I was looking at it and admiring how even I was getting my singles when I decided to take it off the wheel and leave it be. I bought that roving in May of 2011 and I know it’s been a year since I’ve touched it. I don’t trust myself to be able to get that kind of consistency at this point. Luckily, the other three spindles are empty! After I dusted the wheel and polished it up, I loaded up and got to work.

I got a box of roving in a destash from a Regretsy friend, and while the two colored braids of roving are too felted to spin, the loose roving in the box is great. I’ve been using bits of it here and there as stuffing in some of my projects because it’s firmer and shifts less than polyester fiberfill. There’s a ton of it and it’ll be good for practice. I figured I’d spin for an hour, watch the monks of Shrewsbury and their shenanigans on Netflix, and see what’s what. I worked on spinning the single a bit thicker, and I am overspinning like a madwoman. Got some serious energy going on in this bad boy.

 

I made myself stop after one episode of Cadfael and rest my foot. I tend to overdo it and then my ankle and foot kill me for a few days. I gave myself tendonitis when I was first learning and don’t wish to repeat that. Besides, I have the cutest hat on the needles today that I’m hoping to finish. It’s going to be a Halloween costume for a very sweet little boy.

Picture the scales doing down the back of the stegosaurus hat. So freaking cute! RAWR

I also need to put the spinning away and do some work because I checked my stats on my other blog this morning. Oof.

That, my friends, is what happens when you take two days off for a well-earned break. I have been trying hard to ramp up my self-promotion efforts. You may have noticed. And all the blogging and tweeting and tumblr-ing and all that other stuff has had some payoff, at least in the Fiber Arts Empire side of my world. I’m bellybutton deep in special orders, thought I’m overtaking the end of the list, so if you’d like something for the upcoming holiday season, now is a great time to get in the queue for something lovely and handmade for all your gift-giving needs. This advertisement has been brought to you by the Poops Lacey Fiber Arts Empire.

The writing side? Well, not so much. Disappointingly so. Frustratingly so. It’s a lot of work to write stories, blog posts, create tumblr posts, think of pithy things to tweet during the day and so far it’s not translating to sales at all. I don’t know why or what I’m doing wrong, and I decided that it was burning me out. So I took a couple days off and watched my stats plummet.

How fickle are people? It was two days. Two of the slowest days. But come Monday, they didn’t come back. Now I’m back to trying to get readers back and figure out what’s next.

The two days I took off were fantastic, though. I actually got to get back in touch with my real life again, the one that is away from this desk and this house. On Friday night, we had Lori True and David Haas come to our church for a concert. For the un-Catholic, Lori and David are liturgical composers and musicians. In fact, if you open up a Catholic hymnal, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting something written by David. They both write beautiful songs and to see them perform is something special, in part, because it doesn’t feel like a performance. It’s an intimate evening and the audience is part of the event. We are encouraged to sing and we do. Because the music they write is suitable for liturgy, it’s all prayers, and when they invite us to join in, we do. Even the most hesitant person in the pews is singing along by the end.

Lori and David came back on Saturday to lead workshops, and I’ve been looking forward to it since last year when Jeanne got the idea to bring them here. The last time they came was six years ago and I took Lori’s cantor workshop the weekend before I cantored for the first time. I still think of all the things she said that day every time I get up there to pray the psalm and every time I open my mouth to sing. I remember her instruction specifically that if you don’t know the words that you are singing, if it’s just another piece of music for you, or if you are up there performing, you need to rethink your whole mindset of being a music minister. She taught me that I’m a minister first and a musician second.

Saturday’s workshops brought that to a head again, reminding me of the special role I have as a liturgical minister. Church has changed for me this last year since Fr. Albert left. It’s been a struggle, and being part of the music ministry is the only thing that’s kept me going to Mass some days. But listening to Lori and David talk about our role was encouraging, but it was more than that. Lori and David, in addition to being talented musicians and composers, are both theologians and liturgists, and they said over and over again that Jesus is in each one of us. If you don’t see Jesus in the face of every person around you, you’ve missed the point. It’s not enough to pray. It’s not enough to sing. It’s not enough to say you love Jesus. You have to see him in the face of the person you despise and reach out anyway. It’s a challenge I’ve not heard in that building since Fr. Albert left and I’ve missed it so much. I know the message is the same and the challenge has never left, but to hear it issued again with such passion and conviction was moving and inspiring and I think I got that reminder when I most needed it. Strange how the Holy Spirit works sometimes.

So Saturday was spent in holy reflection, and after Mass Sunday morning where I cantored with new energy and vitality and conviction, I went shopping and to lunch with my mother and sister. We usually do that on Mother’s Day, but this year my grandmother had just recently passed and Ma didn’t think she’d be up to it. We made it up on Sunday and hit the Christmas Tree Shop, had a great Italian lunch, then a little Trader Joe’s before heading home. I brought my knitting and finished most of a Cthulhu cocksock in the car. I can’t read while I ride, but I can knit, which is awesome news.

He is a handsome bastard, make no mistake. And the pattern (click the link) has been pretty popular so far.

But, come Monday when I’d neither blogged nor tweeted all weekend, I found my stats had gone down and weren’t coming back up. And here I am, on Thursday, with low numbers on both blogs and trying to decide if Twitter is worth it or not.

*sigh*

The idea of never getting a couple of days off again without having to work twice as hard to play catch-up is unnerving, though.

All Hail the Mighty Cthulhu! October 5, 2012

Posted by J. in Genius, Sticks and String.
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It looks like I’m back in the design business!

Last weekend, I was showing the Hexapussy Hat progress to a group of my online friends. I was saying how I wasn’t sure what it was going to be. An octopus? A squid? Admiral Akbar? And a voice from the crowd piped up, “Cthulhu.”

I’m not a Lovecraft fan, or really into much sci-fi at all, and I lack serious nerd credentials, so I really didn’t think much of it at the time. But then not long after, another guy chimes in and says he’d love a “Cthulhu penis coozie.” Now, where I’m from, a coozie is a thing you slip around a beverage can to keep it from sweating on anything you don’t want to get wet. So my first thought was, “I could make that.” But my second thought was, “What the hell does a Cthulhu penis look like?”

I just saved you from having to Google “Cthulhu penis”. You’re welcome.

During the ten or fifteen minutes I spend looking at some truly disturbing tentacle porn, it was clarified in the thread that he meant a willy warmer. A peter heater. A man mitt. A cock sock.

THAT I can do.

So I spent my day with my needles, yarn, and a notebook and I designed a Cthulhu Cocksock, and I wrote up the pattern. And before the day was through, it was a thing.

For your thing.

Because I can, people. Just because I can.

The pattern for the Cthulhu Cocksock is available here in my Etsy shop and here on Ravelry. It’s only three bucks and it’s a quick, fun little knit. I think it would make a great stocking stuffer. There’s also a joke in there about stuffing socks, but I’ll have to get back to you with it.

And before you ask, I don’t as yet have any made up for non-knitters to buy, but I plan to make some for the shop in the future. Right now they’re a special order item only–contact me if you want one and we can hash out the deets.

It also has me jonesing to get back to working on my knitting book. I call it Clit One, Purl Two: Designs for Naughty Knitters. It features some lovely accessories such as The Man in the Boat Mitts, The Conception Cowl, The Placenta Hat, The Asshat, and the Ribbed for Her Pleasure Mittens.

I wasn’t joking.

Okay, back to my special orders list. I finished the second Dead Pony hat yesterday and today’s project is a Christmas present, so shhh…

WIP Wednesday: It Came From the Deep October 3, 2012

Posted by J. in Genius, Other People's Genius, Sticks and String.
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Technically, it’s a Hexapussy, since it’s an octopus with six legs instead of the usual eight.

Here’s the deep sea critter I was working on last week. It came out even better than I had imagined it would in my head.

If there’s one thing I can say about my friend Mary, it’s that she comes up with fantastic ideas for headgear. She showed me a picture of a squid hat that someone had crocheted and asked if I could do “something like that”. Sort of a carte blanche to do with the basic idea what I will. I chose “ocean” colors and just started knitting. I kept the basic structure of a hood with a tentacle scarf, but that’s where the similarities ended. After much figuring out of things and a couple of false starts, the Hexapussy should arrive at its forever home today.

I went right from finishing the Hexapussy Hat into another dead pony hat. It’s going to look like this when it’s done:

But right now, it just looks like this:

Hanging out on top of my 12 item to-do list next to my Harrod’s knitting bag, my Hellephant picture, the Smutmaster 6000 and Leering Bill. I have my own little wonderland here.

But it’s better than what it looked like a couple of days ago when I pulled on the working yarn and instead of getting a nice, single strand, I got a pile of yarn barf.

*blllllaaaaaaaaarrrrrrgggggghhhhhhh* It’s pretty, but a bitcharooniedoonie to untangle.

I have a feeling I’m going to become known as The Broad Who Knits Weird Hats and Crochets Dead Things. I’m not complaining. I’m just saying. Though the next project in the queue is some pretty fingerless mittens, and a cute, crocheted doll that hasn’t been disemboweled or anything, and another pair of Norwegian mittens. But then there a Cthulhu hat too, just to keep me on track, I guess.

I also have a new pattern that’s a work in progress and if all goes well and the creek don’t rise I should have it in my Ravelry pattern shop and on Etsy by the weekend. I’ll keep you posted. It’s a masterpiece of fuckery indeed, but man, are my pattern-writing skills rusty. It was like pulling teeth to get it on paper!

Oh, and speaking of patterns, it seems I always forget that I have patterns for sale on Ravelry, probably because I seldom visit there. I was looking at hat patterns the other day and found one of mine in search and it stopped me short for a minute. I was all “I knit that hat!” And then I was like, OH YEAH. *facepalm* I’ll put a handy link in the sidebar later, but today is my 14th wedding anniversary and Mr. Poops has taken the day off. After the kids are all safely off to school, we’re going out to breakfast and then home to enjoy a brief stretch of a blessedly empty house to each other’s company with no little voices interrupting.

Rawr.

WIP Wednesday: Release the Kraken September 26, 2012

Posted by J. in Sticks and String.
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I know what you’re thinking: what happened to the green sweater? Answer: it’s been shelved for awhile. It’s too late in the year for a summer sweater now, so I’ll pick it up again this winter and hopefully have it ready for Spring. Custom work has been taking up most of my time and I’m not even really into holiday knitting yet.

Currently on the needles is a squid hat. Or an octopus. Perhaps a kraken. The jury is still out. My friend Mary of Dead Pony Hat fame has commissioned another chapeau for herself, this one of a squid. Or an octopus. Could be Admiral Ackbar.

The eye will be knit as well and stitched on, and if you see the bottom of the hood–the part touching the desk–that’s where the scarf will attach. The scarf will be tentacles, of course. I’ll begin casting on for that today. I’m trying to decide between octopus and squid. I’m leaning towards octopus at this point.

Or Admiral Ackbar. IT’S A TRAP.

Mary’s also got me working on a couple of other things, but because they’re secret squirrel gifties, they shan’t be discussed.

But we can talk about the ponies.

I have just finished and mailed the worst pony yet. Worse than Inverted Pony.  Did I show you that? I don’t think I did…

I said, “An inside-out rectally inverted pony is impossible, both anatomically and in the context of the medium.” I was WRONG.

My friend Bill–not St. Joseph Bill, a different, sicker, more twisted Bill–said he wanted to see a pony that had had its head pulled out of its ass.

I said it couldn’t be done.

He said, “Just DO IT.”

I sighed and got my hook out but I was dubious that it would work. I was three-quarters of the way through it still doubting it was going to work. Then, I needle felted the inside of the eyes, and I knew it was going to work. And it was going to be the grossest thing I’d ever created.

You ever needle-felted an optic nerve? I have.

And it was the grossest thing. Until someone said the words “centipede pony” and I heard a sound in my head like a needle being pulled off an LP.

If you’re not familiar with the movie The Human Centipede, I was going to say Google it, but then I realized if those words don’t bring a mental image to mind, you’re lucky. What has been seen cannot be unseen. You can follow the link if you want a visual of what I was compelled to make, but for the faint of heart (and how did you sneak in here if you’re faint of heart?) know that it’s a horror movie in which three people get surgically joined rectum to mouth.

I know. I told you not to look.

And the friend of mine who bought the original Decapitated Pony placed her order for Centipede Pony.

Now feeeeeeeeeeed her…

I wish I could say I don’t feel good about this, but this tickled me pink to make. It has been suggested that I could use a bit of therapy if creating such truly disgusting things is fun for me, but I say PFFFFFFTTTTT. It’s cheaper than therapy.

Oh, and I finished the snowflake mittens I was showing off last week.

Wool of the Andes in Coal and Wool of the Andes Tonal in Gypsy, my own pattern.

Okay, that’s all that’s cooking and hooking over here this week. Now, I must return to my creature of the deep hood/scarf hat thing. Octopus? Squid? Cthulhu?

I probably should decide pretty soon…

WIP Wednesday: Norwegian Mittens September 19, 2012

Posted by J. in Genius, Sticks and String.
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Currently on the needles is a special order pair of Norwegian mittens. She wanted a pair to match this hat:

The pattern for the mittens is my own design. As you can see, I make these a lot and my pattern has seen better days.

I’m using Knit Picks Wool of the Andes in “coal” and WOTA Tonal in “gypsy”.

They’re coming right along! Show tunes are turned up loud and the knitting progresses!

Happy Wednesday! What do you have on the needles today?

 

Badass Saint Joseph the Worker September 16, 2012

Posted by J. in Genius, Sticks and String.
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St. Joseph the Worker by Badass Saints

I made this Badass Saint for my dear friend Bill.

He asked me awhile ago if I would make a Badass St. Jude for his godmother because Jude is her favorite Saint, and of course I took the commission. But while I was working on St. Jude, I got a clear idea in my head that Bill needs a Badass Saint of his own, and the Saint that was perfect for him was St. Joseph. It came to me as a fully-formed thought in a moment of complete clarity. I had no doubts. I didn’t need to do any research of other Saints. I knew St. Joseph was for him and that I had to make it. I believe I was divinely ordered to do so, and I don’t often argue with God. Well, I do, but I usually lose, and in this case, God and I were totally on the same page.

“Poops.” Sometimes God calls me Poops. “You need to make a St. Joseph doll for Bill. He needs a little reminder in his life that when things are hard, I’m with him.”

“I couldn’t agree more, God. That’s an awesome idea.”

“Thanks, Poops. I do have them from time to time, you know.”

St. Joseph doesn’t fit my usual mold. He wasn’t a martyr. He was one of the non-showy Saints. He was very much a supporting character, but his martyrdom was of the everyday, quiet, strong, caring kind. He gave his life for Jesus by being a dad, a provider, a husband, and a protector. He was by all accounts a good and humble man, and if there was ever a perfect intercessor for Bill, it’s St. Joseph.

So I crafted him up and when he was all done, I sent him to his new home in the Pacific Northwest. Bill sent me pictures of St. Joseph at home on his shelf, probably for the first time in his life not surrounded by his Holy Family. I imagine like most hard-working family men, Joseph appreciates the peace and quiet.

While St. Joseph was never listed in my Badass Saints shop, he still got a write-up of his own because he’s awesome.

St. Joseph the Worker

In the entire Communion of Saints–and make no mistake, that’s an expansive group–few are as widely and devoutly venerated as St. Joseph.

He was a different kind of Badass.

We don’t know much about Joseph of Nazareth. When we meet him, he’s just been made the most famous cuckold of all times, by no less than God himself. He’s just found out that the sweet young thing he’s betrothed to is preggers, and has friends all around him pestering him to stone the whore. Because that’s what you did back then. But Joseph didn’t roll that way. He was planning to break off the betrothal, call the whole thing off and just forget about it.

But then he talked with an angel. Discussed it. The angel told him to calm the fuck down and marry the girl. No, the baby’s not his, but God’s got big plans for that baby, and that baby needs a daddy. So man up and get in the game. And Joseph did.

We all know what happened next. Joseph takes his very pregnant wife to Bethlehem and by all accounts she rode his ass the whole way. She gave birth in a stable, there were shepherds that stopped by with a casserole, and three wise men from afar followed a star and came with some very expensive and impractical baby gifts. Only they weren’t that wise, because one of them forgot to update the star charts or something, and they had to stop for directions.

“So, where you all keeping that new king? We’re ready to make with the worshiping and such.”

Herod was understandably confused. “Don’t know, man. But…uh…I’d sure like to give him a bit of obeisance as well…yeah…so when you find him, let me know where he’s at, okay?”

“Cool! Okay, see ya!”

They go, they worship the Messiah, and then as they’re packing up their travel Scrabble games and filling the cooler for the ride home, an angel tells them to go back by a different route. Avoid the king. Trust me on this one. So they do.

King Herod is bullshit. He isn’t about to let some pissant upstart peasant baby take over his kingdom, so he does what any rational, sane sovereign would do: he orders every infant in the kingdom under the age of two be put to the sword. Think on that for a minute.

I know, right? Fucker.

Another angel knows what’s up and sees which way the wind is blowing. “Joseph. Dude. Wake up. Take your wife and baby and get the fuck out of Dodge. Go to Egypt where you’ll be safe. Herod’s got a wild hair across his ass and shit’s about to get fucking REAL in Bethlehem.”

Joseph does what he’s told for the second time, and again, he protects and shelters his little family and the rest, as they say, is history. Or theology, in this case. Baby Jesus grows up and fulfills his destiny, and St. Joseph’s legend ends. No gory death. No chance at martyrdom. No amazing, miraculous, badass feats. Just a word from a stranger taken to heart and quietly obeyed. A life of hard work and gentle care, of faith and love, kindness, and quiet bravery.

Joseph reminds us that most angels aren’t invisible, and they usually leave their wings at home.

St. Joseph’s feast day is celebrated on March 19 and he is the patron Saint of the whole Catholic Church all over the world. He is the patron of fathers especially, and of families, and workers. He is invoked in all matters involving home and hearth, jobs, and against doubt and indecision.

A different kind of Badass.

For our fathers and our families, for job security in an uncertain world, for a peaceful home and a happy marriage, St. Joseph, pray for us.

WIP Wednesday: The Never-Ending Sweater September 12, 2012

Posted by J. in Genius, Sticks and String.
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One of the drawbacks to being a Woman of Size is that when you knit a sweater for yourself, you realize it takes three times as much yarn as it would to knit something in, say, a size 8.

You realize once you start the task of casting on those stitches that are at the largest side of the pattern instructions that this might not work up as quickly as you thought it would.

As you burn through skein after skein of good yarn and you haven’t even reached the armpits, you begin to wonder if your summer sweater will actually be worn any time before Christmas.

WIP #1: my cotton, short-sleeved summer sweater that should be ready to wear around mid-February at this rate.

I started knitting this sweater back in…hell, I don’t even know. Me and mah Knittahs took a road trip to Webs back in May so I’m guessing it was sometime towards the end of May. I snagged a bag of this lovely Classic Elite Premiere Yarn. It’s 50% pima cotton and 50% Tencel. It is soft and has a beautiful sheen to it. I knit Buggy a sweater out of this years ago and loved it, even though it’s cotton, which is not my favorite fiber in the world.

Oh, my God. She was so LITTLE. And I had SUCH an issue with rowing out!

I wanted to make the Petal Sweater from Knitty.  I thought it would be a great summer sweater, and I hardly ever knit anything for myself. So I printed it out and began shopping for yarn. And I did the math.

Even knit at its biggest size, that’s not going all the way around my ass . So I had to add inches and stitches. And I cast on. For the life of me, I could not get the lace pattern to fall into line.  I tried. God help me, I tried. I pulled it all out–hundreds of stitches–checked my math, and cast on again. Same thing. I knit swatches. I tried starting it at the regular size, not adding any stitches.

It would NOT work. I frogged it four separate times.

I’ll admit I got pissed. I don’t knit from a pattern very often. My problem is that I usually like one element or another but not the whole thing, so I start making changes, and by the time I’m done adapting it, it seldom looks like the original. I was thinking that I liked the overall lace, but that it might be too much in my size and that I’d look like I was wearing an afghan. I wasn’t crazy about the collar because it’s kind of twee.

And then I said, well, hell. Why not just knit the sweater you want? So I did.

I started with your basic top down raglan sweater and modified it to a v-neck. I divided for the armholes and added enough stitches to make it go around my hips and generously portioned backside and picked a cable lace pattern that I really like. And there you go. I got a good way into the lace before life took over and things got too busy to knit.

A close-up of the cable lace pattern. I’m also planning on putting a cable band all around the neck and front where the button band would go. Stay tuned. I should be ready for that by New Year’s.

Well. That’s not true. I put my needles down and picked up a hook and started making all kinds of weird things with my crochet skills. The sweater has been a WIP all summer long, poor thing. But special orders come first!

First, while not a WIP, and I am talking about special orders, check this thing out.

A special order hat combining dead ponies, soft sculpture, and it’s wearable. It’s my three worlds colliding, and I think this is the best thing I’ve ever made.

This was a special order hat for my friend Mary. She loves hats and my dead ponies and when she asked if I could make her a dead pony hat, I said yes. Honestly, it was hard to send it. I knew when I was needle-felting the bullet holes that I had nailed it.

This hat makes me feel not like a knitter, or a crocheter, but a true fiber artist. Also, that blue yarn is some of my own home-spun yarn. I am ridiculously proud of this here bad boy.

But special orders have begun picking up. It’s getting colder and people are thinking about keeping warm and looking ahead to Christmas. Smart folks getting their orders in early. *hint hint wink wink nudge nudge*

WIP #2: working the thumb of a pair of fingerless mittens.

This is a pair of wool fingerless mittens that will eventually be paired with a matching slouch hat. As I work on them, I wonder why I’ve never made myself a pair of fingerless mittens. Mostly because I’m sitting here with cold hands this morning.

A basic plait or braid cable, also called a “trinity” cable in some pattern books.

Fall has arrived in NH and it’s knitting weather!