Monday, March 16, 2015

better pictures

I've been blogging on a fairly regular basis since 2006 - which makes me
a dinosaur in the world of the internet. I started with MadtownMama when
Daniel was a baby and began this blog, Mad Knitting, a few months later.
I don't want to quit, but I'm not sure where I'm going with this,
either. I don't sell things, I'm not a designer, I'll never write a book
(not about knitting, at any rate) and I don't make any money here. It is
for me now, and probably always will be, a personal endeavor, a place to
share my creative life, document the stuff I make, and share random
tutorials from time to time.

But now, I am going to just come out and say something: I'm having a bit
of a bloggy identity crisis. I have been listening to a lot of
interviews with "successful" creative people lately, and now it is
starting to feel like I'm doing this all wrong, like I should be trying
to make money here or write posts to gain readership or give it up
altogether because everyone else has moved on to tumblr now. So maybe
one of these days (like when the semester is over because man am I busy
these days - I've had to turn down a lot of gigs, which is quite
painful) I'll find a platform less cumbersome than Blogger (Squarespace
is awesome, Weebly is really nice AND free) and move everything over and
it will be lovely and fun again.

What do you think? Quit? Move? Keep on keepin' on?

Meanwhile, I have been playing just a little bit with the nice camera
and new editing software, and I have a few finished projects to share.
I'm taking a class next month on using said software, but for now I'm
just messing around. I have lots to learn.

Stuart's birthday was last week and we all worked on some handmade gifts
for him. You're only seeing two out of three today because I'm only
halfway done with his scarf (she hangs her head in shame), in part
because of the time it took to help out with the kids' gifts.

Anya embroidered a patch to sew on a neckwarmer we made for Stuart. She
was inspired by the book Kids Embroidery by Kristin Nicholas. I highly,
highly recommend this book, and if you buy it, I strongly suggest you
order it directly from her website. She'll sign it for you, and as the
author, buying directly puts more of the profit into her hands. Kids
Embroidery is full of fun, colorful projects, useful introductory
information about how to make different stitches, and my personal
favorite part is the great diversity of children featured: there are
girls and boys, and lots of faces that aren't white. Needle arts are for
everyone, know what I'm saying? (I'll write again about that sometime.
It's a topic that deserves its own post.)

In any case, Anya wanted to learn to embroider and worked on this
project for weeks. She practiced stitches on a scrap piece of fabric,
and then we designed the patch. What does Stuart like? Several things
came to mind, but the topic of disc golf won out because that's an
activity the kids love to do with their dad. They played just about
every weekend last summer. So the image below is a disc about to land in
a metal basket. She even used chain stitches for the chains!

Anya was pretty proud of herself. I sewed the neck warmer out of some
fleece I had on hand, and stitched the patch on by machine. Notice, by
the way, that the embroidered disc is headed straight for the
embroidered basket. The first picture I drew, the disc aimed askew and
Anya wouldn't stitch it because she wanted the disc to land where it's
supposed to. Doesn't miss a detail, this girl.

Daniel and I decided together to make Stuart an apron. He isn't able to
help with cooking very often except on weekends, but at those times we
sometimes embark on rather ambitious recipes. He is particularly fond of
frying things and will sometimes look for an excuse to fill the wok with
oil and heat it up - eggrolls, samosas, doughnuts. You need an apron to
do this, so we found a large piece of denim in my fabric stash. I did
all the cutting and sewing, and I used an existing apron for the basic
design. Daniel did the pocket decoration, however, using a bleach pen.
Bleach pens are fun, man. I need to use them more often. I got the idea
from an old knitting book from at least a decade ago where all these
projects are knitted in denim yarn and then bleached to great effect.

This apron was fun because I used some hardware, which felt very
professional, though it's not hard to do. I installed grommets in the sides for the ties (not
pictured) and put a buckle on the neck strap.

The last batch of pictures are from Sunday. It was windy and warm, so we
spent a bit of the afternoon in a nearby conservation park (Pheasant
Branch, for those who are interested), hiking up muddy trails to the top
of what the kids call "Mount Hill", where there are Native American
burial mounds and an amazing view of a winding creek and suburban
development below. I brought along my latest FO to get some photos. It's
the scrappy cowl I made using leftovers of a variety of yarns. It's not
perfect, but I like it and it's very light and comfortable to wear, a
good transition piece.

I have this to say: Anya is WAY more photogenic than I am. All the
pictures of me were dreadful except this one. They all make me look old and gray and blotchy. 

I guess I could wear make up and color my hair, but I won't.

My only project on the needles right now is that (#*$ scarf for Stuart.
I'm itching to do some sewing and even some embroidery (Anya's interest
has kindled my own), so be on the lookout for more projects soon.

Monday, March 09, 2015


These pictures are all courtesy of my phone. We have a nice digital camera, but I don't take it everywhere with me, and the phone works nicely for capturing those fleeting moments during the day.

Yesterday I had some kind of flu and couldn't get out of bed. It sucked. Just sitting up took massive effort, and it wasn't until about 4:30 in the afternoon I finally mustered up the energy to pick up my knitting:

The gray scarf is a little longer.

Anya's been pestering me the last few days to teach her how to knit socks. At first when she asked, I dithered a bit. Socks are complicated and all she knows how to do so far is the knit stitch on straight needles with, shall we say, variable tension. 

Here's the thing about Anya, though. When she decides she wants to do something, she can be remarkably persistent and tenacious about it. She does not give up easily. I'm really proud of her for this. Most kids whine and give up when something does not immediately work for them, but not this girl (usually). She is willing to stick with a project until she figures it out, or at least reaches a skill level she deems satisfactory. 

I thought we would start with a practice sock, something to teach her basic skills and sock construction and have something to test her gauge without worrying about whether the finished product would fit. If she finishes it, that will be mightily impressive. If she loses steam halfway through, no big deal. I taught her to cast on (new skill for her), and then I joined the stitches and showed her how to knit in the round on DPNs. 

Slowly but surely she is getting the hang of it. She's even enjoying it! Today we knit during Daniel's piano lesson and by the end of it she could tell which side of knitting was the right side, and hence which direction to go when starting a new needle.

We'll see how this goes. I personally still think socks are a tad ambitious, but far be it from me to discourage any creative effort on the part of my child.

Her knitting, and mine on the piano teacher's ottoman in the waiting area.
Soon, we'll have an exciting project of hers to show you, but I can't ruin the surprise for the recipient just yet. 

Thursday, March 05, 2015

on and off the needles

Welp, not too long after I posted my FO pictures of Beekman on Ravelry, I was contacted by Julie of Knitted Bliss, who asked if she could feature it on her Modification Monday series on her blog! That was pretty exciting, and of course I said yes. You can see the post here.

Finishing that sweater really did feel like quite an accomplishment. It took a lot of time and effort and knitting and re-knitting, and I am proud of how I worked out the neckline just how I wanted. Once it was done, I wasn't sure what to knit next. I knit a few swatches and looked through some patterns, but in the end, I think I was ready for a break from sweater knitting. Not a long break, mind you, but in the meantime I have been working on some simple neckwear. You know, projects where gauge and finished size are approximate and eyeballing it is good enough.

Like this cowl:

I gathered some leftover yarn and size 7 needles, cast on 30 stitches, and knit a long bias strip (inc and dec on the ends of every other row), striping on a whim, until it seemed long enough for a cowl. Then I decided it was narrower than I wanted, so I picked up stitches all along one long edge and knit on about 1.5" of a border before sewing the whole thing into one big loop and hiding all the ends. There were a lot of ends.

Here's a quick selfie I took this morning. Better pictures are coming soon, I hope, but don't hold your breath. I quite like this cowl. I still haven't decided if the color combination is cool and artsy or a little bit ugly, but it's a delight to wear and I love all those greens. 

(In case you're wondering, the apple green is Silky Wool leftover from Champagne and Pei, the dark forest green is Knit One Crochet Too Cozette leftover from my Scoop-Neck Fail, the heathery aqua is a hemp/mohair/wool blend that I lost the label for long, long ago leftover from the Lightweight Pullover I no longer own because the sleeves inexplicably got shorter every time I wore it, and the tweedy stuff is leftover from a hat I think I gave to my mom.)

I started another scarf, too, in lovely Chickadee by Quince and Co. This one has a deadline, which I fear I will miss, due to my hectic schedule and a plague that has hit our house this week. Spring won't come soon enough, I say.

I did at least manage to make some progress while waiting for an oil change this afternoon.

Given the stress I have right now, I'm grateful for some comfort knitting. Who knows, I might even get back to knitting socks one of these days.

Monday, February 16, 2015

beekman (aka she had me at "hello")

At long, long last, my Beekman sweater is done! According to my project page on Ravelry, I started knitting this sweater soon after the pattern was released in October 2013, and it's taken from then until now to finish it.

I had so many problems knitting this sweater and started over twice. I put it down for long stretches (months, in some cases) to work on other projects.  I finally found myself on the home stretch a couple weeks ago and was all set to finish and block when I got to the neckline and everything came to a screeching halt as you may recall from my last post.

I cursed in frustration and put the thing down for a few days. The original boatneck seems to work on everyone else who has made this sweater (according to project pages on Rav), so I think the problem is that I don't have enough of a bust to fill anything out or broad enough shoulders to hold up the neck properly. (You know that saying, "Real women have curves"? I've always hated that because I am not particularly curvy. Does that mean I'm a fake woman or something?)

In any case, I was determined to make this sweater work. I like the design too much to give up! Those asymmetrical cables?! She had me at hello....

So I undid the bind off and kept going for a bit on the neck. I left the front center stitches bound off, but continued back and forth with a couple extra decreases before adding 4 sets of short rows on the back. Then I bound off again and picked up 5 stitches for every 6 with a smaller needle and set to work on the cowl collar, decreasing a bit after an inch or so, and increasing again as I approached the point where the collar would fold over. I switched to bigger needles at the fold, and bigger needles yet about an inch before binding off for good to allow for some flare so the collar would sit right. I was totally and completely winging it but happily, after all the trouble I'd had with everything else up to this point, the collar turned out really nice on the first try. Whew.

We took these pictures on Sunday afternoon. The warmest it got was about 8 degrees with a wind chill of -1, so now you know why my face is red and unhappy. I'm not sure the ugly aluminum siding is a great backdrop for photos, but when it's that cold you don't saunter over to the park. Not worth it!

Pattern: Beekman's Tavern by Thea Coleman
Sticks: size 7 circulars and DPNs for the main knitting; size 6, 7, and 8 for the collar
Mods: neckline, as described above, plus I made the sleeves longer to accommodate my ape arms, lengthened the body just a bit and added some waist shaping to make it look like I have a waist

Friday, February 06, 2015


I had been hoping my next post here would be to show off a new sweater, but alas, that is not to be. I've been working on Beekman's Tavern for well over a year now, and it's been quite the process. I've made more mistakes on this one than I thought possible, and as a result, I've done the equivalent of twice the knitting, probably, and I'm still not done - not done with either the sweater or the screwing up part of it.

But while it's a little disappointing not to have a new sweater to wear yet, I've learned a lot about the process and about patience, and I think that it's definitely worth sharing here.

Sleeve. At least the sleeves went okay for the most part.
The moment I saw this sweater, I knew I wanted to knit it. Not only did I want to knit this sweater, I wanted to wear it, and that's a rare combination for me.  I wear a lot of simple, plain things (if you're being kind you might call my sense of style "classic" but the words "boring" and "lazy" are a little more honest), and while simple, plain sweaters might be nice to wear, they're often not a lot of fun to knit. I don't know if you've noticed here, but monochromatic, textured garments are particularly appealing to me - I've never met a cable I didn't like - and Beekman's Tavern is a beautiful combination of textured stitches and a simple silhouette.

It's not this yellow IRL, fortunately.
As soon as I could, I bought the pattern and dug some yarn out of the stash (as tempting as it was to buy some of that Cormo wool, I really am committed to knitting more of what I've got first, and I have a decent little pile of Cascade 220 in a nice natural color) and off I went. At first, my goal was to get the sweater done by the beginning of 2014, but that obviously didn't happen. I got sidetracked with other things and then I started screwing up the knitting Big Time. I slipped stitches the wrong way on the lace section and it was too tight and pulled up in the middle in the most unattractive way. Rip. I miscrossed a whole bunch of the cables. Rip again. I added waist shaping and misplaced some of the increases. Sob. Rip. This doesn't include all the times I found little mistakes in the cables and lace and had to tink back a round or two to fix them. It has been a while since I have messed up this much on one single project. At first, I got really frustrated, but once I accepted that I had to commit to the long haul for this sweater, I found patience and didn't worry about any artificially imposed deadlines and just worked on it a little bit every night, figuring it would get done eventually.

Why yes, I knit while I'm playing Scrabble with children. Don't you?

It's a good thing I gave up on a deadline, self-imposed or otherwise, because last week, when I finally thought I was on the home stretch, I stopped knitting to look things over and discovered that I'd failed to center the bound off stitches on one of the sleeves, and once again had to rip back, this time to the yoke join, and I just about came unglued.


You see, in my ever-so-humble opinion, one major drawback to bottom-up sweaters knitted in one piece is the incredible awkwardness right when you join the sleeves to the body. There are so many stitches and they pull so tightly around the sleeves for the first few rounds, plus there is no way of knowing how the sweater will fit until it's practically done, so if something goes wrong you have a lot to take out. (I've formed some pretty strong opinions on sweater construction, but if I like a design enough, I can set my feelings aside for a little while.)

Anyway, after a few more nights' worth of re-knitting the yoke, I bound off all the stitches and tried it on before picking up the stitches again for the collar.

Sexy boat neck?

The neck is too big. It's just simply TOO BIG.

Nope, just sloppy.

Now, the instructions say to pick up fewer stitches around the collar than were bound off, and then you work in ribbing for a little while, so I know that will pull things in considerably. And after some conversation with the designer, I see that I ended the cables several rows after a cable-cross, so if I kept going for a bit and crossed those cables, it would help pull in the neck just a little more. But I still don't think it's enough.

There is no extra back neck shaping on this sweater, which I know will bug me in the long run. Plus here's the other thing: I've been jonesing for a big squishy cowl neck sweater for a while now and I think I could possibly convert Beekman into just that. I'll leave the stitches bound off in the middle of the front, but add a few back-and-forth rows with more decreases on the back and top of the sleeves, then bind everything off before picking up a bunch of stitches around the neck for a nice big cowl collar. I have plenty of this yarn so there is no worry about running out...I just have to figure out how to construct the cowl. Do I want to split it on the side with some buttons? Knit the whole thing in the round? Do I need to increase a bunch halfway through so it has enough fabric to fold over? I'm still mulling over all this. But I have to fix the basic neckline first.

I know this much: the sweater certainly won't get done by this weekend, and that's okay. Sometimes the creative process takes a while.

Monday, February 02, 2015

some baby things

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about why I blog and how I spend time online. Blogging feels old-fashioned already, at least the way I do it. I'm not selling you anything, for one thing. I don't get paid for this and no one helps me do it. There are so many things I could be doing better - better photography (I'm working on that, but it's slow going), regular posts on particular topics...that's how all the good bloggers do it, right? Sigh. 

Well, more on that later. As much as I don't want MadKnitting to become simply a parade of finished projects with nothing interesting in between, it's late and I'm tired and I have to go to work tomorrow, so I'm going to leave you with a few pictures of the things I made for some friends who welcomed their firstborn to the world last Wednesday. His name is Oliver, and he was born in the middle of the morning on his due date, which is remarkable in more ways than one. 

Alas, we do not share baby O's penchant for punctuality! While I had these gifts all finished up a few weeks ago, we missed the baby shower due to a round of flu, and we have yet to meet the little guy or present him and his parents with these handmade goodies. 

Item 1: a sweater!

Pattern: Classic Cardigan by Erika Knight. I left off the pockets. Cute as they are, I see no point in pockets for a tiny baby sweater, and I like the clean look of it without them anyway.
Yarn: Dale of Norway Lerke, which I've had in my stash forever. I've made at least four other baby sweaters out of this stuff (this one and this one and these puppies plus a couple sweaters that evidently didn't even get blogged) and I still have some left. I swear I didn't have all that much to begin with, but it's lasting forever. I'd say I'm sick of it, but Lerke is great for baby sweaters, so I guess I don't mind having a little more on hand.
Size: 3-6's always good to guess on the big side. Babies grow fast and there are only about  three months out of the year you don't need a sweater here.

Item 2: a quilt!

I have to confess, this is a quilt top I made years ago for a different child, but I never finished it. I think my own little people got in the way. So when I heard our friends were expecting a boy, I pulled this out and finished it, which only required attaching the backing, tying the knots and sewing on the binding. As you can see from the pictures, I chose coordinating flannel prints and arranged them in a predictable way. It didn't require a whole lot of creative effort, but I'm happy with the result all the same. Some of my corners were perfect, and some were not. All those corners were covered by the knots anyway, so it doesn't matter. Knotting quilts isn't my favorite look, but it sure is fast, not to mention reliable. I am skittish about machine-quilting flannel backed with fuzzy polyester knit (not pictured) and the knots seemed like a safer option.

Next post I'll share more about the creative process, and the importance of screwing up. But now, it's time for me to get some sleep.

Sunday, January 25, 2015


It's about time I shared a success story! While I don't regret for one minute tossing that ugly sweater, it certainly didn't take me long to move on. In fact, before I even tossed that one out, I finished a hat that I started over the holidays during an interminable layover in the Atlanta airport. 

I make a lot of hats. Knitting hats is like instant gratification for me. Often when I find myself slogging through a sweater or other long project, a hat is just the thing to take the edge off.  Hats are quick, they don't come in pairs, and where I live, you just can't have too many.

This one is 7up, and even though it's a babycocktails pattern, it's one I didn't test knit, believe it or not (I did test Black Tea from the same collection, that enough links for you?) I used some alpaca yarn from my stash. I didn't swatch or anything, just cast on and figured whatever size it turned out to be, it would fit someone.

At first it was rather small, but it grew after blocking (alpaca will do that, not much memory in the fiber) so it fit me after all. I made the mistake of letting Anya try it on...

...and that was that. It's hers now. And that heathery teal color is so beautiful on her I don't even mind.  Question is now, should I make another for myself?