In which our blogger takes a small break from sewing to develop a new screen printing method suitable to a small house (Vinyl! You can screen print with vinyl!)Read More
We're going to take a short break from our regularly scheduled adventure-programming to talk about the things that happened during my 3 months in New Zealand when I wasn't busy climbing mountains and romping on beaches- I'll give you a hint... There was a lot of knitting. This little corner of the internet was originally created for the purpose of blogging about all the projects I get up to, and it seems that regardless of the mountains in my immediate vicinity, I still find myself needing to do something with my hands.
First things first. I met this pretty lady at Jon's parent's house: I did a little research and it turns out that Wheeler & Wilson, the manufacturer of this machine, was bought out by Singer in 1905, which means this machine was probably made in the late 1800s. It's not particularly rare, but it is a very lovely machine, and it's an interesting combination of things I'm used to on old machines. It has the modern upper threading path, which has changed very little since its original design, but the bobbin mechanism is a different story. The first successful sewing machine was designed in 1830, and this machine used a shuttle bobbin- a long, narrow piece which slips into as bullet-shaped device. The whole mechanism moves in a curved forwards-backwards motion under the machine when it's sewing. My treadle machine at home has a shuttle bobbin.
The shuttle bobbin was eventually replaced with a stationary bobbin, which continues to be the standard for modern machines because it's less prone to jamming, mechanical issues, and being generally finicky. This machine was obviously made during the transition period, because it has a modern style bobbin and casing, but the mechanism still moves under the machine like a shuttle. Very weird, but very cool and clever. She hadn't been used for a good couple of decades, but she was in great condition regardless. All she needed was a bit of cleaning and oiling, and a new belt. (ebay for 3 dollars, if you're curious.) The most difficult part was coming up with a project for her once she was ready. That didn't turn out to be so hard either, though- It's unreasonably sunny in New Zealand (40% more intense UV rays than the US), so I chose to make a super simple shoulder-covering Sun Protection Device- complete with fringe!
I used about 2 yards of printed rayon fabric, and a couple of yards of satin fringe in two different lengths. I think it's supposed to be upholstery fringe for pillows and stuff, but it matched my fabric too perfectly to pass up. If you're curious, and because nobody in the world deserves sunburnt shoulders- I've made a diagram:
This way I don't have to write the whole thing out, you see. It's very simple. You attach the sleeves to the cut slits, and then sew the tops of the sleeves and the shoulder seam all in one go. The only not-pictured step is the binding to finish the front and neck- that's just a 4" wide strip that runs up one front, around the neck, (which I trimmed into a slight curve) and down the other side. The shoulders and armholes are french seamed to add stability and hide raw edges, and the fringe is also encased by the fabric, so nothing unsavory is showing anywhere.
See? Easy as pie. And these things sell at markets and such for something like 60 dollars. Really, you could use whatever kind of fabric you wanted- I've even seen some with lace. This one happens to match my swimsuit though- and my hair, apparently- which is always a nice touch.
Including the fixing up of the sewing machine, that project was completed in the span of two afternoons. These next two basically occupied the rest of my down-time between adventures, given one took significantly longer than the other.
This pattern is Sparrow Song by Anne Hanson, made with some Possum-Merino yarn I got in New Zealand. Possum is a pretty uniquely New Zealand thing, and it's very very soft, and very warm- even if the concept is a little weird. Possums in New Zealand are a totally different thing than US possums, though. As for the yarn, it's a bit hairy and sheds at first, but only a little. Still totally worth it. In other news, I really love this cowl pattern. It's knit top down, and then the bottom edging is a knitted-on border completed last. It's a bit ridiculously warm.
In a problematic and cruel twist of fate, however, I have only been able to wear it about twice because it is very warm and, because New Zealand's seasons are opposite from ours, I've essentially had two summers in a row with about 3 weeks of winter in between. By the time my next trip is completed, I will have had four consecutive summers without a full winter in between. I probably won't get much use out of this cowl in that span of time, but I'm certainly going to try.
Here's the next (and significantly larger) project:
Leaves of Grass by Jared Flood. The pertinent information for both of these projects can be found in more detail on my Ravelry page, if you're interested in making them. This is a circular shawl knit from the center out, and has yet another knitted on border. I think knitted on borders are my favorite technique in knitting. The only other thing that comes close is gusset heels...
The other particularly exciting thing about this shawl is that it's an Elizabeth Zimmerman Pi Shawl. There are only four increase rows in the whole project- in between each lace pattern. This allows you to substitute in any other lace stitch if you're not feeling whatever's written in the pattern, since you aren't limited by needing to match increases. I didn't make any changes to this one- maybe next time.
I cast on for this shawl a day or two before I left for New Zealand, and I finished it in the Los Angeles International airport on my way back home. Not that I was working on it constantly, but it took basically the whole three months. It was actually pretty great travel knitting. The only awkward part was when I dropped my ball of yarn behind my seat on the return flight, and had to employ the gentleman sitting behind me to retrieve it. He was a good sport, though.
The last part of this crafty little side note is more of an in-progress sneak peek, because it's getting a blog post all to itself later on. One of my favorite things to do on warm summer evenings (in December, I'm actually still not over that weirdness)- was hunting for sea glass on the beach. We'd drive to the beach after dinner, stop for ice cream, and walk along the beach looking for pieces of sea glass.
This is a photo of what we gathered after the first ice-cream laden evening. I wanted to make myself a necklace, but ended up finding enough pieces on the trip that I decided to share the love a little bit more than originally intended. We found so many pieces that I had to leave most of them behind, but the others- well, you can find some of them here if you're curious, but the details will come later.
You've probably noticed that not everything in the picture is sea glass- there are also ceramic shards, although they're a much rarer occurrence. According to the all-knowing interwebs, they're called 'beach pottery'- and I will let you know as soon as I figure out what I'm going to do with them.
I'm a material person. I like stuff, I like projects, and I am the kind of person who needs to have something to do with my hands, pretty much all the time. I may have been in New Zealand to see the sights and climb the mountains, but I had just as much fun with my projects and I'm especially happy knowing that I can still get my materials and work on things there, since I'll be going back for a whole year in a few months. In the meantime, I'm going to continue to wear my knitting around even though summer's almost here...
(next time, mountain-adventures. I promise)
Sometimes, I am struck by the notion of how very small and insignificant we are in the grand scheme of the universe. The thought is both terrifying and intense. Sometimes, though, I think about the scale of my little slice of earth in relation to the rest of it, and the comparison is...surprising. There are so many of us- of humans. So many people, in so many places, and each of us has a story and a future just as incredibly complex as your own. If you're interested, the word you're looking for to describe that feeling is sonder. On the surface, it seems like it should make you feel tiny and unimportant- you're a speck, floating, with a billion other specks, through an infinite void of potential nothingness from and towards a great unknown. Look closer, though.
First, there's the 'six degrees of separation' concept. The idea that any human being can be connected to any other human being through no more than six intermediate 'degrees' (other people, places, or some other general factor that the two subjects have in common). That makes things seem a bit bigger, doesn't it?
Then, there's the miracle of the age of computers. My sister is in England right now, and I had a conversation with her just a few hours ago. I have friends in other states and countries that I get to chat with pretty regularly, and I sell knitting bags to people in places like Norway and Australia. The post office makes my international shipping wonderful, too: Almost any country for just $6.55, so my international buyers love me. My association group spans several countries, and I'd like to think I influence those people at least a bit.
You probably want to know what got me thinking about this. I shall tell you. A few days ago, actually the first day after my cold when I didn't feel like death warmed over, we went to a Mediterranean restaurant to get shawarma. For those of you unaware, there's a scene in the Avengers where Tony tells Cap that they should get shawarma once they're done fighting the aliens. He says "I dunno what it is, but I want some."- then, the post credits scene is all the Avengers sitting around a table in the shawarma restaurant looking all tired and hungry. Exhibit A:
So, since our favorite Marvel superheros eat shawarma- so should I! As it turns out, shawarma is wonderful. It's basically little meat morsels and some other things served on pita (and anything served on or with a pita is pretty awesome by default anyways). It's like meat candy! Seriously, go try some shawarma.
The shawarma got me thinking- how incredibly wonderful it is that I can not only find out about other cultures and their foods, but that I can go out and find that food somewhere within driving distance. This, to me, makes the world seem like a pretty small, and also wonderful, place. If I want to try Indian, Mediterranean, Chinese, all I have to do is hop in the car.
I used to spend a lot of time thinking that I was born in the wrong decade. I should so have liked to have been around to witness the 20's, the 60's, and the 70's. I would probably avoid the 80's entirely, but also Victorian England, man. that would have been cool. The invention of swimsuits that went from your ankles to your shoulders. Yeah, I used to be really hung up on the way things used to be- but if I lived in the 20's, I'd never have tried shawarma. I wouldn't have been able to start a very successful business, or meet people from other countries. I actually probably wouldn't be doing much at all because without modern medicine I wouldn't be able to feel my arms right now. I've come to realize that I definitely belong right where I am- right now, in the present. This is where I can make the most difference, and where I can be the person that I want to be.
I do things like this sometimes- I'm reading in to the shawarma a bit too much, maybe. I love to think about things like this, though. It's fun to have these little conversations with myself, and I hope I can make you think about some of these things. Maybe you have something to add. If you do, I'd love to hear about it in the comments!
It's easy to think of yourself as that insignificant speck, but then...well, then you start to think of yourself as insignificant and that is absolutely no good for any kind of self esteem. I love this modern world, I love how people constantly work to make connections with each other, to learn new things, and to create a better life for themselves and the people they interact with. I love that there is technology that makes these connections possible, and I love being a part of the movement.
PS: Next time, there's going to be an update on the design side of things. I've been working on a lot of stuff lately, and things are starting to come together- stay tuned! There'll be lots of pictures next time, to make up for the lack of them presently.
There's this bag of cookies I keep in my nightstand. I was looking at it yesterday, calmly enjoying a midnight snack, when I realized that the cookies expire in the same month that I graduate. I sort of panicked. We're not measuring my education in years anymore, are we? We're measuring it in stale snacks. I ate the last cookie, just now. What does that mean for the rest of my education?
It will help you to follow the rant that follows, if you have some kind of general outline of The Plan, so I suppose I'll start with that. I graduate in May, as the cookies have told us, and two days later I'm shipping off to the UK for two weeks of exploration and cultural experience. Then, once back from there, I have a few days' worth of lull before we're off on a family road trip to Ohio to congregate with the rest of the family- at the end of which, I'll be flying up to Maine to be the photographer for a summer camp for six weeks. This all ends on August 15th.
August 15th begins The Void. The day after which- to the best of my knowledge at this point in time- nothing else is planned. I'll no longer have school, work, or any other obligations tying me to any particular place (besides relationships, which are obviously important, but they don't make The Void seem any less big).
If any day were to signify my transition from kid to adult, August 15th is it. Hopefully, by the time The Void comes, there will be another plan in place, but for now it's too early to tell. Plans have a tendency to change, anyways. Basically, my goal now is to stop The Void from opening up on August 15th, and I have between now and then to make that happen.
Then again, if nothing ever ended, then nothing would ever begin.
Here's a beginning:
My realization of the existence of The Void happened late last week, over a batch of croissants. I was rolling 81 layers of butter between 82 layers of dough, when I realized that eventually, in the not-too-distant future, my life was probably going to be completely different than it is right now. Furthermore, if I wanted to have any control in the kind of different that it was, I had better start planning for it now.
I've started poking around for jobs, and the prospects definitely seem good- but it's also become very apparent that the first real step in this process is going to be updating my portfolio. Who's going to want to hire me if they can't see what I've done, after all! I've started putting projects in Behance, which you can find by clicking in this general vicinity, and that's gone surprisingly well already. I have a couple of followers already, and my thoughts on Compliments Paid By Strangers are already well documented, so we all know how I feel about this.
The general format of the Behance portfolio page also has allowed me to identify areas where my portfolio needs to be improved. Example: for a person who spends a lot of time thinking about digital illustration, there's sure not a lot of it up there. Granted, this probably has a bit to do with my own impossibly high standards. I'm working on it, though. More projects will be posted soon, and then the real fun will begin. (Hint: There's a section for fashion and costume design.)
So- anyways. That's where I am with the job hunting, news as it comes. Aric wanted to know how my stress level was yesterday. Despite acknowledging the existence of The Void, I am feeling pretty zen. I told him as much, too. There are a lot of things going right in my life at the moment- big things like the continuing success of the Etsy store, medium sized things like that right now I'm knitting a baby blanket from a historic Shetland pattern that my great great grandmother knit for my Dad before he was born, and also small things like that my new cap erasers are perfect and don't leave unfortunate colored smudges everywhere. The Void isn't succeeding in getting me down (if it's even trying. Is it? I'm not the type to cower in the face of an adventure), and it would take a lot, I think, at this point to make that happen.
I've also shifted some of my time around so that, although I'll spend fewer hours reading in the evenings, I can start working on some more portfolio-enhancing fun stuff. You'll probably be seeing some more of that. If you build it, they will come!
Here's one very important thing that I learned this weekend. Everyone knows the phrase 'curiosity killed the cat'. I've never liked it, it just seemed so pessimistic and defeatist. The sort of thing you'd tell a kid if they wandered off one too many times. I learned, though, this weekend, that the whole phrase is supposedly "Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought him back." I did a quick google, and couldn't find any definitive proof that it first appeared with or without the second bit, but I certainly like it much better this new way. It fits, don't you think? The only way for me to conquer The Void, after all, is to jump in and trust that I'll land on my feet.
Go forth, my dears, and be curious! The Void awaits us all.
We're sort of working on branding a company, which includes annual reports, in Capstone right now, and it's really interesting to compare my 'imaginary' company and my 'real' company. Hi. My name is Kat, and I run a business out of my bedroom.
When I started this whole thing, it was just an excuse to try and make money back for the exposure unit I desperately wanted (remember that?)
Basically, I wanted to be able to print t-shirts for myself, and I thought 'what's the worst that could happen?'- so I opened a store.
I won't bore you with the details, except to say that it was a considerably more successful venture than I had originally intended. The end of summer came and went, and it sort of kept going.
At the end of last semester, I'd sold all but 7 of the original bags, and desperately needed more. So, over Christmas break this year, I cut, dyed, and printed approximately 200 more:
I reprinted some of the old designs (the post apocalyptic life skill print always sells quite nicely), and I also designed and printed two new ones. Here's the first:
I shall save the second to show you for when they're actually sewn together, because they're prettier that way. I'm particularly fond of how this turned out, especially since those silly balls of yarn took way longer than they should have. I'm not exactly in a good line of work to be complaining about drawing balls of yarn, but seriously- one color vector illustrations of balls of yarn is really hard. If you'd care to stop by my little shop and see the other colors, you can do that here.
I spent a good part of Friday and Saturday sewing bags together, with some interesting consequences:
This, apparently, is what happens when you run a business out of your bedroom. All those bags seem like they don't take up too much space until you actually lay them out. They grow, I tell you. They expand to fit the space they are given. There's probably a new law of physics waiting to come out of the way these things behave. "The Law of Whether or Not Katherine is Taking Her Life In Her Hands As She Walks Across Her Bedroom"... I don't even know what it's going to be like once they're all sewn together.
So that the drawstrings won't tangle, I've draped them over my closet door according to color. It's nice because it allows me to see how much I have done, but it's not nice because it forces me to stare at how much is left to do. Also, I can't close my closet door until I've sewn them all together. Incentive?
I find it helps to ward off the boredom of performing the same 5 steps over and over if one has a movie playing in the background, so after much deliberation I bought myself a copy of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and proceeded to wail along with the songs and make all of Magenta's crazy faces along with her whilst I was sewing:
Tim Curry, guys. That man is brilliant. The first time I watched it, I was pretty on board until the ending happened (I shan't spoil it for those of you who haven't seen it), after which I didn't like it at all in the very least, and it took me a long time to watch it again after that. Then again, I also didn't like Monty Python the first time I watched that, so clearly my opinions cannot be trusted.
Another thing that's new with the shop is most certainly something I should have done a long time ago...
I don't know how my shop survived six months before I made tags! I'm a vis comm major after all, the fact that I waited so long to do this is nothing short of disgraceful. Etsy doesn't give you a lot of personalization space to work with, all I have is a little 75x700px header that I can put an image into, so my shop can't really have that much branding. However, my hope is that the tags add a bit of a professional vibe, and also that they encourage return customers. There's a coupon code on the back 'for your next purchase', along with care instructions (which are also printed on fabric tags inside the bags but who's counting). There's also space back there so that I can write the number and color name of the bag that the tag is attached to.
I wonder how many people will notice that there's a little sheep in the damask pattern. It's like a little secret in plain sight that I can share with the more observant masses :) Did you notice him there?
There are a lot of little alterations, much like the addition of the tags, that are important to make as one realizes that the shift from 'This sounds like a cool summer project!' to 'Holy cow guys I have an actual business and there's a demand for my stuff!' happens. For example, when I started all this in June, my screen washouts occurred outside, which is just a terribly not-good idea when your store still requires restocking in January. With the help of a very friendly powwow of home depot employees, however, I discovered a way to attach the pressure washer to the shower in my parent's bathroom. Thus, indoor screen washouts could occur!
Along with the cold, wintertime is just generally a bad time to take glamor shots of bags to be listed- although I love everything about winter from a personal standpoint, it is generally ugly through the lens of a camera. Everything just looks dead. Everything is dead. Or hibernating. I solved that problem with $30 and a trip, once again, to my friendly neighborhood home depot:
I have two shop lights, from Home Depot and a cheap (ugh! polyester!) sheet from wal mart, and now I can take really nicely lit photos of the new bags without risking frostbite for something that's just going to have a drab background anyways. I still much prefer natural lighting, and the pretty backdrop of some vibrant green foliage is hard to beat, but as far as alternatives go, I'm pretty pleased with this solution. The light that my lamps give off is only slightly cooler than sunlight, and I can control the shadows much more effectively. When I grow up, I'd like to have a pair of actual photography strobes, but $30 for a pair is a lot more reasonable than $400 for one, at this stage in my life. For the next few months, I have access to the photo studio in the art building, which I may take advantage of at some point, but the whole point of this store is that I don't need to depend on anyone else's stuff to make it happen.
Also, as a side note, don't be giving me crap about how wrinkly my sheet is- I took this picture of the setup when I was still testing to see if everything would actually work. I ironed the stupid polyester sheet for the actual shoot.
I was talking to Rusty yesterday about the things that I've learned here at Truman, and aside from the idea that I think I've learned more of the 'how to deal with this situation in life' variety than I have 'what this button in Photoshop does', we both agreed upon the importance of interdisciplinary learning to a visual communications student. It's one of my favorite things about Truman, that I can take so many different classes and yet they all relate right back to what I'm doing in vis comm.
Now, most people, in the summer before their senior year, do an internship, but I opened this store instead- and I'm still of the firm opinion that I've learned so much more doing this than I could have under any other circumstances. I use skills I learned in fibers, printmaking, and vis comm, and it has taught me about advertising, business, and marketing, along with some fun facts about SQLs (those things that control what happens when you type a thing into a search bar... COOLEST EVER! I could do a whole post just on how cool that stuff is, but I won't subject you poor people to it...). What I'm trying to say is, I know a lot of art people in general look at etsy with some degree of disdain, because they think it somehow emphasizes on a different aspect of the creative life than universities do, but it really doesn't. There are better things to do than to kick at the line between 'art' and 'craft'- everything is both, and everything is neither. The fact is that this store has provided an interdisciplinary outlet for all the foundations I've learned at Truman, and has provided me with the time and capacity to think about and question what I want to happen with my life after school, and there's just no substitute for that.
Sorry, that got deep really quickly. I can go from tidal pool to rift-in-the-ocean-floor in about two seconds, though, so I don't think anyone is surprised. Here's a picture of some more bags:
So, a summary: I started the store as a summer project, and it's taken off in a direction I could never have seen coming. I'm besties with the ladies at the post office, and I ship these things all over the world! I'm a bit proud of myself. Time will only tell what the next six months will bring!