Monday, March 24, 2008

Welcome Spring!

The pink plumb tree is blooming in my front yard. A breath of Spring for those of you who are not yet experiencing it. The daffodils are up, too, in Portland, Oregon. Next we'll see the tulips start. I saw my first fat yellow and black striped bumble bee in the plumb tree today, as well.

Speaking of pink..... the swatch above is a hand-painted ribbon which I knitted up in a cat's eye stitch. I really like it because it looks like crochet (which I don't do). I've got a few ideas gestating. Hmmmmm.
Aren't these bracelets cute? I can't remember where I found them, but I think they're really inspirational. Don't you think we could knit (and/or felt) something like these and embroider them up in Spring colors?

One more swatch above to inspire your design. I'm still working this one out, but I'm thinking about a summer jacket. The yarn is a ribbon in silver.

Now go knit, draw, design!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Look What We Found!

The ewwww factor! The construction crew opened a wall and guess what! The biggest paper wasp nest that anyone of us has ever seen. Although it looks pretty big in the photo, I'll tell you that it was a lot bigger in person! At least 3'x3'x3'! Thankfully, abandoned. But the guys know to come and get me for a photo op. So here it is. We can't even imagine how many wasps it held when full! Yikes!! So the re-model goes on.....
Moving on,
I'll be hosting a live knitalong for the Needle Felted Bucket Bag at in about 6 weeks. I'll update you when we have an exact date. In the meantime, if you've wanted to knit this bag with a worldwide group, here's your chance! The pattern is available at:

I'll be teaching a "live" class to go with the on-line class at Abundant Yarns in Portland, Oregon. We're still figuring out the timing. I'll keep you posted.

Coming soon will be the Needle Felted Bucket Bag yarn pack kit. I'll let you know shortly on that, too!

Also, that secret project I told you about.......

I can now tell you that it's for Ann Budd's upcoming book entitled KNitted Gifts published by Interweave Press. Probably out in the Fall of '09. The project is The Perfect Ballet Flat.
They are soft knitted slippers with Intarsia flowers, outlined in an embroidered stem stitch and a few beads sewn on for the fun of it. There's also a velvet ribbon detail sewn around the opening of the slippers and suede pads sewn to the bottoms for traction. I've worked out the basic slipper pattern this weekend in three sizes to fit practically everyone.

Here's the drawing I did to go with the swatch. I've been wearing the slipper prototypes around this weekend and they are cozy and warm!

Now, more remodel! Here's Bary doing a high-wire act on the beam that goes across the new raised ceiling! So Cirque du Soleil!

The dramatic beams and framing went in this week. The beech wood that will cover the ceiling is being finished at furniture grade and I can't wait to show you! Also the plumbing was moved around the bath to new positions.
Tomorrow electric (and because this will serve as business office along with design space, there's a lot of electric) and Tuesday, the tile man will come and take a look at what's in store for the bath. My designer, Susan and I go search for the perfect obscured glass for the shower and the toilet room wall. Crazy!!
More soon! Keep knitting!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Under Construction: The Perfect Design Workspace

This week construction (more precisely, demolition) began on my new design workspace and office. It has been in planning for about 8 months, and as some of you who have been through the construction process probably already know, once they open the walls and see what you really have to work with, all bets are off!! Above is a view from the landing just outside my office through the double door entry.

Just inside the doors of the office, you are looking at the gutted wall, on the other side of which is the 20x6 foot walk-in closet. The ceiling has been torn out so that a new cathedral ceiling can be built.
This project is quite large. The office and attached bath are about 500 square feet, and to make the room feel even bigger, and because we had immense attic space to work with, the ceiling is being raised from 8 feet to a cathedral peek of 13 or 14 feet. One surprise we became aware of in demolition is the gigantic beam you see, will need to stay in place. So I'll have an exposed beam I wasn't expecting and we'll add a few more to make it look like we meant to do it all along.
Here's the view back the other way from the closet wall to the double entry doors (the lighted opening to the right is the gutted bath.
My glass desk will be placed in front of the windows with such a pretty view of trees (when the windows are clean!!)

So, I planned every minute detail with my friend and Portland, designer extraordinaire, Susan Green, but........a wall in the bathroom couldn't be moved, as we had previously thought, which changed just about everything in that room's design. Design opportunity!! The sad little toilet is the only thing that remains for now (the above photo is about 1/3 of the bathroom). It, too, will be replaced in this remodel.
So, the fastest design re-do (thank you, Susan!) on the planet was done in about 18 hours, so that Jim, custom cabinet maker,
Dale, the contractor (that's him above) and I would have something to work with.

Bary and Casey are the most cheerful workers! I can't help but keep them topped off in french press coffee and cookies.
I am very, very excited about this project and will keep you updated as we move along.
Designing a space, is very much like designing knitwear.
It is certainly a lesson in being flexible and highly creative as each design choice impacts all the rest behind it.
I am grateful to the professional team that "has my back". More to come!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I'm Not A Knitting Purist

As I'm sure you've probably guessed, I like to add lots of elements from other craft disciplines to my knitwear designs.

Nothing is off-limits, as far as I am concerned. The more crafting skills you know, the more amazing your projects can be.

Sewing, embroidery, needle-felting, beading, wire-working, leather-crafting, painting and drawing, weaving, spinning, dying and above all a "can-do" attitude can spice up your knitting repertoire.

I added gold and silver leaf to the felting process in the Silver Leaf Satchel (center top), Zebra Bag (above) and Pebble Beach Bag (above Zebra Bag).

Pearl beads were used to emphasize the zig-zag motif in the Zig Zag Wrap (at right) and real pearls on rings, Felted Purls (below).

Needle felting on the Needle Felted Bucket Bag (left), Cheery O's Pillow (below) and Cheery O's Book Bag (below Cheery O's Pillow).

Embroidery before felting on the Flower Market Bag (directly below).

Wildflower Cushion (below) is also embroidered before felting.

Spray paint on the Barcelona Bag (below).

Shibori on the Rocky Road Scarf (right).

Added embellishments like pennies, polished stones, shells on The Famous Penny Bag (below), Pebble Beach Bag (you've already seen above), and the Hamptons Bag (below The Famous Penny Bag).

Or simply add unusual hardware and buttons, like on the Five Alarm Bag (below left), Beginner's Mail Carrier Bag (below right), Silver Leaf Satchel (top of page), Barcelona Bag (top), Zebra Bag (second from top).

Many more surprises are waiting to be revealed through your knitwear designing. I encourage you to experiment and swatch using your non-knitting skills!
Now go out and design!
All of these designs are available from

Thursday, March 06, 2008

My Best Ideas Come To Me In The Shower!

As I've often told my knitting students, some of my "crazy-wonderful" ideas seem to be downloaded to me (from the Universe?) while I'm in the shower. I now know that I ALWAYS need to have a pen and paper next to my sink at ALL times to jot down those wild ideas.
When I was in high school I ran across a poem that exemplifies the fear of every artist who's met with a fleeting germ of an idea that crosses the mind in a flash, only to evaporate before it is ever grasped and committed to paper. It is from a book of poetry called "Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle...and other modern verse" by Stephen Dunning/Edward Lueders/Hugh Smith.

The poem is called Gone Forever by Barriss Mills. It goes like this:

Halfway through shaving, it came--

the word for a poem.

I should have scribbled it

on the mirror with a soapy finger,

or shouted it to my wife in the kitchen,

or muttered it to myself till it ran

into my head like a tune.

But now it's gone with the whiskers

down the drain. Gone forever,

like the girls I never kissed,

and the places I never visited--

the lost lives I never lived."

SO that's why I take great care of the potential design ideas that I get in the shower. They are jotted down quickly, then when I'm dried and dressed, they are illustrated in more detail.

Then, if I simply can't bear to wait, I swatch a little swatch to see if the idea really works in "real life". And if it still has grabbed hold of me, I knit it until it's finished. Somehow, during this process all the other "drop-deadlines" sit on hold and don't seem to be any the worse for wear!

Don't tell my husband I get my ideas in the shower! He thinks they come when I'm sitting on the beach while staying at an expensive beach rental gazing at the Pacific Ocean. I don't know where he got THAT idea!!

Besides, it's really the dog who loves the beach the most!

Good Boy!!

Flowers Flowers Everywhere!

When I design potentially complicated and colorful pieces of knitwear, I draw sketches.

I'll usually start with a rough pencil drawing and then color it in with an array of pens in my collection. These were the first colors that popped into my head for the Wildflowers.

I was lucky on this project, and kept all the colors that I originally drew. This was going to be fun, there are 18 colors of wool! As you can see by my drawings, I intended to design a handbag.

I made a color graph and knit the project. I outlined the basic Intarsia knitting with a simple embroidery backstitch so that when the piece was felted, it would look like very complicated knitting had taken place. NOT!!

Of course, before that, I carefully swatched the yarn and felted it, noting all the shrinkage. I was pretty sure that the finished size would be: A very large, satchel.

But.......the felted piece
did not shrink as anticipated. It was really far too big to be a handbag, maybe large luggage! But that wasn't going to be very practical.

What to do? Well, it didn't take long for me to decide that it would make a wonderful giant cushion, suitable for floor or couch.

I love the bright flowers and they seemed well suited to all sorts of different decor.

Classic to contemporary

The Wildflower Cushion pattern is available at:

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Inspiration & Interpretation

Sometimes inspiration comes from flipping through fashion magazines (but not always). I saw this fabric on the skirt above and loved it. I wondered how to interpret it in a felted swatch which might end up being a handbag or a pillow.

First, I sketched my

interpretation in the same colorway.

I knit, felted and then needle-felted the outlines around the leaf and flower motifs.


Maybe a color change was in order.

I was inspired by the printed fabric on an upholstered chair.

The result is the pillow you see here, which will be published in Pam Allen and Ann Budd's next book in their series ColorStyle this Fall.

So the path from here to there can be quite interesting in both life and design.

It never seems to be the same road traveled to get from inspiration to interpretation.

And that's the fun of it!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Meet Alice The Mouse!

"Alice-the-mouse" is her formal name. She came to life shortly after our daughter came into this world. She is very much a part of our family and was lovingly slept with, scrunched and dragged around for 10 years. Then spent the next 7 years on the shelf.

She's knit out of Dark Gray French Angora that was left to me by my mother-in-law, who passed away a few months before our daughter was born. My thinking was that Alice could be the soft hug from a grandmother who would not be known.

This is our daughter at 6 with precious Alice, whose eyes are pewter rose buttons. They were only separated once, by accident, when poor Alice was left in a hotel room and was not able to be retrieved for 3 long, heart-wrenching days. I've often wondered what Alice was up to during her stay at the hotel!

I wrote stories about Alice's humble beginnings and her adventures which were told at bedtime. Here is a sampling of some of the illustrations I did to entertain the two sleepy-heads.

Our daughter is now 16 and Alice doesn't sleep in the bed anymore, she sits on shelf. Ahhh, they grow up so quickly!

I can only imagine that someday Alice-the-mouse will have some knitted friends who will likely be as rumpled and crushed and loved as she was.