While working on a longer-term knitting project, I will sometimes manage the urge to cast-on something new (no harm in that, though!) by doing smaller-scale handmade projects.
I enjoy the things that perler beads – in their near infinite versatility – can do. I’ve just discovered perler jewelry-making: fuse some beads, add a chain here, a connector ring there, a clasp, and you have yourself some nifty new pixel-y things to wear.
Here’s a perler necklace picture-DIY for the curious (the patterns are not original).
one, Chicago had its first day of snow this season – the kind of overcast, subtly slushy city day that feels like a call to snowy adventure. I felt a bit like Peter in Ezra Jack Keats’ beautiful The Snowy Day.
Two, I attended my very first indie craft show (!), the annual Renegade Craft Fair held in Chicago’s Bridgeport Art Center. This historic 1911 building is an industrial work space in wood beams, skylights, exposed brick, and 3,ooo lb-bearing freight elevators which shake and hum mechanically as they take you to the Skyline Loft on the 5th floor. The building oozes with the energy of creative labour, making the perfect meeting place for lovers of handmade and artisanal wares. Despite still coming off of the tail end of my head cold (this thing is really hanging on), I was determined to go to the Fair. Having first read about it in HandmadeNation, I was very curious about what kinds of things Midwestern crafters were working on.
When we arrived Sunday, the venue was packed to the hilt – really a bustling marketplace. Apparently, Chicagoans love their crafts.
With roughly 250 vendors, wares included handmade knits, prints, candles, cards, soaps, ceramics, stationary, jewelry, housewares, handwoven textiles (even macramé plant hangers!). I was able to meet and chat with a few folks in the Chicago and regional arts/crafts community and was really inspired by their examples – people who combined hard work and creativity to produce original and magnificent (and useful) things. The ethos of the event, I felt, explored the unity of form and function – the view that art and artistry can be present in, and celebrate, ordinary life and the everyday. Finding and making beauty in the ordinary is something that I deeply value. [Aside: There happen to be no craft-persons or artists in my immediate family that I know of, so I’ve always wondered where this strong impulse came from. The only genealogical ‘art link’ I was able to find was my Great Uncle Andrew. According to the story, he studied with the Philippine portraitist Fernando Amorsolo and was a very talented painter who lived a mostly impoverished life. He’s been described as a kind spirit, perpetually fretful, and worrying.]
I digress. With all the craft and design energy abuzz, I couldn’t help but have an inkling of what it might be like to participate in a fair one day. I started to think of what kinds of things I might be able to produce, and what steps I might take to begin to share my work. Would I choose one medium? Explore several? Or combine them all into a single, new, art-craft megabundle? What would my goals be? Until I decide, I’m happy to continue doodling, subway-knitting, avidly reading blogs, and being an all-around craft enabler and enthusiast.
At the end of the day, I was thrilled to bring home a new tote bag designed by Mustard Beetle Handmade.The tote features artist Elizabeth Jean’s gorgeous brush and ink work. We had a lovely conversation about ink and brushwork – a challenging medium which I also love – and I spent the ride home looking (marveling) at the detail and beauty of the design (for more info and a link to the Mustard Beetle Etsy shop, see #2 in my list of Memorable Makes below).
If you are interested in some Renegade craft vendor highlights, read on, friend. And if you have participated in fairs or sold your wares, I would love to hear a bit of your story – how and when did you decide to get started crafting on a larger scale? What brought you to make that transition?
While building new skills is an important, ongoing thing, sometimes, a knitter needs an easy weekend (or two). When I found a tutorial on how to knit a simple seed stitch cowl on sheepandstitch.com, I knew I had to try it. I found the cowl beautiful and the pattern well-suited for a needle-newbie like me. The cowl is knit in the round on a circular needle, and the pattern is versatile and customizable to a range of needle sizes. The tutorial also contains a useful lesson for beginners on doing gauge measurements and calculations (throwback to 9th grade algebra).
The seed stitch produces a wonderful texture that, despite its bumpiness, lays flat – great for cowls and scarves and other projects where one might want to avoid post-knitting curling in at the sides. This is also a relatively quick knit; bulky yarn knits up pretty fast. My only grievance is that the seed stitch requires the yarn to be moved from the back of the knitting to the front as it alternates between knitting and purling with … each…. individual…. stitch. Depending on how the yarn is held, this can get tedious. In response, I switched from English knitting (yarn held in the right hand) to Continental (yarn held in the left) to speed things along ever so slightly. This cowl has now turned me into a (mostly) Continental knitter, so perhaps this was a good thing (though I know that this is a controversial issue. To each his/her own, of course). Now that I am trying to learn Fair Isle knitting, or stranding, a knowledge of both methods is coming in handy (pun intended). I look forward to sharing my stranding thoughts on a future post.
I knit this cowl on a set of US 11 29″ circular needles, using a little less than 2 skeins of Loops & Threads’ Facets – a Bulky (#5) weight yarn (120 yds/skein). Using a circular needle for the first time was exciting, and took a little getting used to. At 30″ wide and 10″ high, the cowl is a little big. But, I think it will make a nice gift this holiday, especially given the imminent Chicago winter. According to Farmer’s Almanac predictions, this one is anticipated to be a long, cold, and snowy revenge-season for the higher temperatures we had last winter. The cozier the cowl, the better.
Aside: I am pretty grateful to be crafting in the era of the internets – being able to witness others’ unique and singular creative process keeps me inspired and in awe of the beautiful things that get to exist.
As a new knitter, I am always looking for opportunities to put recently learned skills to use. While cultivating the ability to work on long-term and larger knitting projects is important, I get excited when I see possibilities for using new-found skills to make tiny (and quick) crafts.
I recently learned seed stitch, and it was an instant favourite; I love the stitch’s bumpy and unusual texture. Seed stitch is a 2-row pattern. The ‘bumps’ are produced by alternating single knit and purl stitches on the first row (usually of an even number), then doing the opposite on the second row (knitting the purl stitches, and purling the knit stitches). Voilà!
I tend to hang on to discardables, recyclables and other re-usable items for my crafts, and I had been keeping an empty tomato-paste can, unsure of what to do with it, but bent on re-using it. 🙂 After reading about yarn bombing – a form of graffiti-knitting that transforms objects in public space with colourful knits – I began to look for the things in my immediate environment that could use some yarny love.
I would love to do this. Photo source: wikipedia.org/wiki/Yarn_bombing
From there, I thought that a seed stitch pencil-can cozy would be a neat and quickly craft-able project.