Given & Received

A little late as a Christmas gift for my sister, but that's what happens sometimes. The yarn was initially a bulky weight consisting of four strands of lace weight which I split. Pyramid Charlie went smoothly before I noticed some errors about three quarters through. I guess it was understandable given the complex, simultaneous transitions. I love how the diamond turned out on this one, outlined in seed stitch. Fixing the errors tacked on some unexpected overtime, but it turned out really beautiful.

Pyramid Charlie

A fitting gift considering she got me one of these babies:
Got a Swift!
This swift accommodates my six footer skeins rather nicely. It's gonna save me a bunch of time. Up until now I've been using my camera tripod which was a rather slow solution. With a winder and a swift I feel like a real knitter now. Will it be enough to get me off World of Warcraft? Yeah, probably. Okay yeah, definitely.


More Doing Less Posting

Whew! There's been nothing but 'doing' around here lately. Aside from the sweater-cide, I re-did Carve Bravo a total of three times before I got somewhere I wanted to be with it. I'd say it turned out pretty cool. This yarn knit up a wonderfully distressed fabric. It looks lovingly broken in. I should have it up in the shop later on today.

Carve Bravo

Here are some thread weight multi strand sweaters that I'd been avoiding till my yarn winder made my life easier.

Basic Elements CottonCharter Club Cotton
Van Heusen Cotton


In Stitches

There's a part of me that really dreads the thought of selling all the stuff I'm making right now. It's causing me to think hard about what it is I'm trying to do with this craft I just happened to pick up for the hell of it. Exactly a year ago I finished my first crochet project. It was a slouchy beanie. Big surprise, right? The following month I signed up on Etsy to reserve my name. This entire year has been focused on improving my skills so that I can offer hand knits to people who might want to buy them. That's a pretty general goal, but there it is.

Now that I'm here surrounded by thousands of sellers, I can't help but feel like everyone is offering the same thing: chunky-ass knits. What's up with that? If i were to guess, I'd say it's because they look fantastic on a computer screen. The stitch definition is all up in your face, plus you feel warm just looking at it. Another reason is from a production stand point. After developing the Carve series I was reminded of how easy it is to work with worsted weight yarns. They knit up quick, so you can blow through a hat in one day. Easy.

It doesn't fit. Carve series doesn't jive with what I'm trying to do with my knitting. You know what it feels like? It feels like I'm copping out. I'm falling for that Etsy trap of spitting out some quick thing that looks great on your iPad or whatever. The whole idea of coffee cup cozys is another cop out. I may as well be churning out amigurumi owls or felted mustaches on sticks. Okay, maybe that's a stretch, but that's what it feels like to me.

So the Carve series is my compromise. It's me accepting that most people won't understand that Skew series is wearable throughout the year, or that Pyramid series is far more sophisticated & stylish than any chunky cop-out.

Then what am I trying to do with this craft? Well, I've been learning crochet and knitting for one year, and I see all the old fascinations I had as a graphic designer materializing in stitches. All the geometric abstractions and glorified distress are coming through into a new medium.

But more than anything, it's the design process I'm fascinated with. The sitting there moving a triangle left and right for an hour trying to find the flow of visual energy. I don't really care if the things I'm doing have been done before. My knitting isn't about them, it's about me. It's the learning and the doing, and the logical progression towards a conclusion independent of outside influence.

Sat though all that, did you? Well then have a relaxing look at these pretty pictures of works in progress and sweater entrails:

Carve Bravo WiPDuality Bravo WiP
Two Strand CottonThree Strand Cotton


Carve Alpha

While figuring out different ways to accommodate multiple price points in my shop, I came up with the Carve series. Initially I thought about making smaller items like coffee cozies, but I'm still undecided about that. Very undecided, but more on that later.

What I know for sure is that I like accessories, so I looked at my pricing strategy: one of my biggest pricing factors is production time. By knitting with heavier weight yarn I can produce an item quicker. That much I learned just by being inundated by chunky knits whenever I do an etsy search. In fact that's pretty much why I started my collection with finer knits, and will continue to produce them. There's an eloquent sophistication about smaller-gauged hand knits. I'd love to see Pyramid Bravo worn with a slim, tailored suit. It would look dope as hell.

Carve Alpha

So this project was an interesting gear-shift for me. I don't want it to sound like I'm merely pandering to a lower price point. Developing this pattern was actually pretty rewarding. It was nice to work with worsted weight yarn again, and being able to work up swatches quickly was great for ironing out all the kinks.

The Carve series is characterized by a section of nullified stitches that reinforce the basic pattern. In this case, the seed stitch sections are carved out by purls. What this does is form the dynamic geometry that I can't seem to shut up about. Another aspect of the series is that the stockinette section at the top slants opposite of the carve.

Good stuff. I love how it turned out. I've already picked out the yarn for Carve Bravo. Want updates? Then don't forget gridjunky likes you!


Packaging Postulations

So I've been tossing around ideas for product labeling on my hand knits. Today I tried out a knitted label. It took a while, I'm thinking maybe too long. I think it's cute, but I don't know if I can handle doing it for every piece I produce. I'm meticulous, but I don't have all the time in the world.

Fortunately for me my cards arrived. I ordered these last week from PSPrint. They have a deal for business cards right now, so I jumped on that 40% off for a short run. I think I'm just going to attach these rather than torture myself knitting thread weight yarn.

Are you familiar with Etsy Treasuries? They're these collections of items compiled by members under various themes. I first heard about Treasuries when I got featured in one earlier this week, then another. I was like: "I'm featured in a what?" Have a look, and leave a comment.


Thick & Thin

Okay, so I've been looking for ways to cover multiple price points in my shop. One option was to make little things like coffee cup cozys which are easy to produce and could be priced accordingly. It's a viable option, but I decided instead to knit up a hat in worsted weight yarn. It's a little strange for me. I'm used to dealing with thinner weights like lace and sport that work up into sophisticatedly thin fabrics.

Totally doable though. Thicker yarns work up quicker, and therefore can carry a lower price point since they require less production hours. This one I'm calling Carve (Alpha). 100% Italian wool and it feels fricken fantastic.

Carve AlphaSkew Bravo

Skew Bravo is coming along nicely, and I have a feeling it will be just as magnificently drapey as the Alpha. I'm really diggin' the rustic brown.

Cotton Blend

I got around to dismantling this cool men's cardigan last night. I had been putting it off because of the sheer size of it. Not only is it an extra large, it's a pretty thin multi-strand weight. I finished winding it up this morning. It's 70% cotton and 30% nylon, and seems to have a sheen I never saw in the original sweater. I wonder if it was because it was ribbed? I'll have to swatch it up in stockinette to see what's up. I have a feeling this olive drab green would make a great Duality Bravo...


Pyramid Bravo

Pyramid Bravo

Some of you may be wondering what the deal is with my knitting. It's pretty simple, really. I don't want to make the same thing over again, and I like to improvise. One thing I noticed from knitting patterns was that I rarely follow them. I tend to change them dramatically. Eventually I came to realize that all I need is a really basic structure. From there I can do whatever I want.

Since I use recycled materials, duplication is not very likely. Besides, I just don't want to. Uniqueness is a good thing. Moving forward is also awesome.

So anyway, here's a preview of Pyramid Bravo, the second in the Pyramid Series. I tried something new this time around: multiple transitions (specifically three). After the first transition, two more are introduced within the diamond section, and eventually get overtaken by the final stockinette transition. Yeah, confusing, whatever. Look at the picture.

Pyramid Bravo will be available tomorrow (Wednesday, October 27th).
Come check out my shop and heart me!


The Handmade Dilemma

The whole research experience of opening up an Etsy shop has been pretty interesting. The subject of pricing was of particular interest. It seems that so many knitters out there are underselling themselves, and in the process undermining the integrity of hand knits. Charging $20 for a beanie that took you a week to make is kind of like working in a third world sweatshop, but that's what people seem to think their time is worth.

As an independent seller of hand knits, not only am I the designer, I'm the producer, the marketing strategist, the photographer, the copy writer, the stylist, the accounts rep and (if necessary) the guy that works the returns desk. Moreover, part of being an independent business person is educating clients about product, and the value associated with buying handmade. The reason handmade costs more is because it's better.

If you've been reading my blog, you may have seen all the sweaters I've disassembled. The process of selecting which sweaters are appropriate for recycling gives me the unique opportunity to examine hundreds of sweaters from all sorts of brands. A good portion of these brands really don't provide much in the way of quality. Major clothiers cut production corners in order to cut their prices. It's not even possible for us independent crafters to take these types of production shortcuts. I don't have a gigantic industrial knitting machine in my house, and I certainly don't want one. Cheap commercial knits are cheap because they're mass produced in third world sweatshops. I have no intention of providing that type of product, and my pricing reflects that.

I spent a good part of the last two weeks researching other people's prices and calculating the value of my time and efforts, yet I still get the feeling I'm not charging enough. In calculating all the man hours I've spent getting this opening to happen, I'm still selling myself short. But the fact that I chose to do it, made it happen, and decide on a daily basis to make something out of nothing means I love what I do. That's what it means to live a creative life.

But enough with the talkie-talkie. The gridjunky shop is open for business. Heart me, Like me, send me a love note, or maybe buy something if you don't think it's a rip-off.


I Tend to Tinker

There's a lot of bleed through in the creative things I do. I tend to tinker. When I draw I just let it out, but I tend to clarify within a series of seemingly identical images. With logos I do the same thing, and now with my knitting I find myself doing the same exact thing.

Pyramid Bravo (I use call signs) is the same pattern as Pyramid Alpha, but with a different trio of stitch patterns. Alpha goes like this: 1x1 rib > 2x2 rib > stockinette. Bravo starts with 2x2 rib, then 4x4, then... I haven't decided yet. Maybe I'll do seed stitch. Anyway, here's a picture:

Pyramid Bravo

Now that I have a yarn winder I can start (and in some cases finish) disassembling the cotton sweaters I've been avoiding for various reasons. The exif data on the armband sweater picture is from way back in April, and without a winder it took forever to whittle away at thread weight cotton (20+wpi!!). This winder makes things much easier. Those spools are rolled up magazine pages.

The other sweater victim was a little easier to deal with. This is a sport weight multi-strand. The cool thing about recycling cotton yarn is that it's already been washed a bunch of times, so it's all broken in and soft. This is a great color too. It's about 65% to 70% gray with a subtle warmth that pushes a bit toward purple.


On the shop front, I'm writing up some snappy product descriptions for everything, and planning out all the branding and graphics. The alphas for Pyramid, Skew & Duality should be up for sale by the end of the week. Tell a friend!



I finished up the Duality scarf yesterday, at least up to the point of washing and drying it. I didn't really write a pattern for it either. It's a provisional cast on with 3 stitch garter borders, with 3 rows of garter stitch at the end. I'm really diggin' how it turned out. It's a clean, organic design which echoes natural patterns while embracing my interest in white/negative space.

Trees are like slow explosions. Branches grow along predetermined paths forming patterns that are seemingly simple, but the process of growth itself is intricate and a little mysterious. Conceptually, that's what's going on in this piece: the duality between perceived simplicity and complex processes.


With the completion of this third piece, I'm just about ready to start my shop listings. All that's left is to make some brand tags and attach them. I spent the bulk of today writing up my shop policy, setting my shipping rates and designing a shop banner, so I think I'm all set as far as that stuff goes. Look for a new shop button when gridjunky launches this month (no really, it'll happen this time).

So what's next? Hmm... I'm thinking: "glitch."


The Organic Nature of Structured Improvisation

Wow, life without internet sucks! I don't think I've spent as much time on the phone with automated robots and tech support people as I have these past two weeks, but I got my internet back up. Unfortunately this tossed a rather large wrench into my gears, and now my shop opening is bumped over a month, but hey, it'll probably be a while before I sell anything anyway.
At least I was able to finish Pyramid and get through the majority of the Duality scarf which is almost done. I also managed to start and finish another beanie. This one I'm calling Skew. Each of these pieces are explorations of the basic knit and purl stitches with an emphasis on structured improvisation.


For example both Pyramid and Skew are essentially the same pattern: 1x1 rib > 2x2 rib > Stockinette. It's the gradual transitions between the three sections that make them different. On Pyramid the sections mirror each other creating a diamond of 2x2 rib that form double peaks when worn folded.


Skew works both transitions from the same vertical point creating a paralellogram section of 2x2 rib. I worked Skew loose and drapier in a fluffy lamb's wool. I like the way beanies look when they are worn long and unfolded. Both have that signature slouchy look that I love so much, but Skew is definitely the slouchier of the two. I almost don't want to sell these...


Duality echoes the same exploration more directly. Triangular scarves like this consist of an increase row on the right side followed by a straight row with no increases on the other side. It's on these straight rows where the improvisation happens, steadily creating a seemingly random fringe pattern. After completing each increase row, I look at the piece as a whole and decide how long I want the next "fringe" to be and mark it. Doing this tacks on more time to complete each row, but I don't really care. I'm more interested in the organic nature of structured improvisation, and how the two halves oppose and compliment each other at the same time. It's sort of like recognizing the growth patterns of lichens or tree branches. Hopefully the person who buys this will see what I see.

Wind It Up!

On a side note, I finally got a yarn winder. I purchased this one from Knit Picks. Up until now I've been using pieces of bamboo as nostepinnes to hand-wind center pull balls which is quite time consuming. This cute contraption's gonna save me a lot of time. Now I just need a yarn swift so I don't have to use my camera tripod to hold the yarn while I wind it.


Two Things for the Shop


I finished the first of two offerings for my shop: a beanie called Pyramid. It's a variation of Carbón, incorporating the arcing rib transitions that look great knit in the round. The second hat I'm working on is still in development, but it's a variation of the Pyramid pattern. Look for the completed pieces when gridjunky launches on etsy later this month.

Dsquared WoolWool Acrylic Nylon Blend

An of course the sweater killing never stops. This time I scored some nice italian wool, a wool blend in a great shade of light blue.


Seeing Red

Hollister Wool

This last sweater I unraveled was a breeze since it was knit with bulky yarn. The hard part was getting a picture of it that wasn't blown out to nuclear proportions.

We've been talking about it in the Yarnographers Group on Ravelry. For some reason, digital camera sensors flip out when it comes to red, so in order to get decent shots you need to under-expose by a few clicks and preset the white balance. Photoshop irons out the rest of the usual kinks like brightness, saturation and all that jazz.


The Life of Sleeves

Made a Zippy

Now that I'm more or less familiarized with my recently acquired sewing machine, I felt it was time for a project. It didn't take long to find this zipper bag tutorial which was just what I was looking for.

I'm all about recycling, so I salvaged a zipper from a pair of destroyed slacks destined for the recycling bin, and some sleeves from two oxford shirts in my scrap pile of old clothes.

The tricky part was having to work around not having a zipper foot for this machine. Basically that meant maintaining a distance between the zipper and the hemlines. Aside from that, my first sewing project was a piece o' cake.

Lowell Dreyfus AlpacaKelly Wool

On the recycling front, I've disassembled two more sweaters, a shetland wool in blue black, and a salt & pepper alpaca. This is the first time I've handled alpaca. The fiber is really soft and resilient. I gotta keep an eye out for more, this stuff is just too fantastic.


July Roundup

These summer days mean less time spent at my desk staring at a screen, and more time wandering around in the sun. Less creative projects happening? No way. Nice weather is a good excuse as any to get out and hunt for some creative inspiration. Here's what I've been up to this month:

I dug up my stash of hemp twine to make a few coasters. I mail ordered this stuff way back in '96 when I was living on Guam making necklaces. Maybe I should start making those again....

I haven't taken on any knitting projects this month, in fact I killed a few works in progress that didn't seem to be going anywhere. Instead I've been researching new techniques over at Knitty. I completed (and frogged) a Calorimetry to learn about short rows, and learned how to do a tubular cast on.

Hemp CoasterCalorimetry

Swatching is a practical given, but I took the opportunity to swatch up some of the recycled irish wool from last month. From what I can tell it's a sport weight consisting of a double strand of... lace? I wanted to see how it would look if I halved the strand. I gotta say I love it.

Halving this yarn also gave me a chance to wind a ball with a nostepinne which I find quite relaxing. These nostepinnes I use are actually just pieces of bamboo I got quite a long time ago from the Japanese Cultural Center at Foothill College where they have a stunning bamboo garden. They usually have a pile of pruned bamboo and I always liked looking at the cool textures. I also took the opportunity to learn joins since I hate weaving in ends.

Split & SwatchedSplit & Wound

In the past two weeks my supply of sweaters has doubled. I live down the street from the Berryessa Flea Market where they have quite a few of these stalls full of clothes priced at $1 each. So far I've scored a good amount of irish and italian wool, as well as some silk and alpaca. It's like the freakin' deal of the century. Anyway, this swelling stack of sweaters prompted a much needed culling, so I killed three of them. I seriously need a yarn swift... anyone wanna buy me one?

Gap Cotton BlendGap Lamb's WoolJ Crew Wool Blend

Earlier this month my friend Shiela became my hero when she gave me her old sewing machine, an Elna 410. I've wanted a sewing machine for quite a long time, despite not having the slightest idea how to use one. But hey, that's what the internet is for, right? So I've been doing lots of forum-lurking and research on sewing basics and resources, totally stoked about this addition to my creative skill set.

Elna 410

That's what my July has been like. Lots of sweaters to kill, bike rides to take, yarn to knit... and pillow cases to make... (?)


illustration: Shuffle


I like deconstructing things and examining the pieces in new arrangements. This image consists of elements generated in Savagery. I used just one layer of objects and proceeded to shuffle, prod, scale and arrange the objects like I was in kindergarten again.


Recycled Cotton Yarn

Gap Navy Vest

I can't say for sure if it's the warm weather that's making me like cotton yarn so much right now, but the more I knit with it, the more I realize it's efficiency. How can this much cotton be so light?

This fingering weight yarn I recycled from an unworn vest is a luxuriously rich navy blue. Another welcome addition to my yarn stash.


Restrained Clarity

Graphic design is all about the message. If you aren't saying anything, you're demonstrating nothing. If you have something to say, communicate it with eloquent clarity. Form it, nurture it, groom it, clarify it, and let it out.

I like the idea of having something there, behind the eyes, waiting to bust out, but restrained, waiting for the right moment. It's not about the release, it's about control.

Jerome Robbins nailed it with a stunning piece of choreography in West Side Story. After the loss if their leader, the Jets are off balance, confronted by fear, regret, anger and sorrow. On top of that, they have to deal with the cops. With so much raging inside, and so much riding on it outside, the best thing to do is "be cool."

Before the action, before the idea springs from your mind full blown into the world, just before it explodes, grab it. Pull it back. Then slowly let it go and examine it as it passes softly through you.


wanderings: Needles & Roses

All this sweater ripping has yielded lots of thinner yarns from cobweb weight to sport weight, so yesterday I took a bike ride over to The Bobbin's Nest to pick up some much needed knitting needle sizes. Visiting my local yarn store always makes me feel totally motivated to knit. I love that.

Halo StarPlaytime

Afterwards I rode around and ended up at the San Jose Heritage Rose Garden. It's kind of a weird place, a bit off like much of San Jose. Located near the San Jose Airport, there are always planes roaring overhead. The surrounding area consists of open lots with dilapidated roads which the SJPD uses occasionally for training exercises. All that aside, the garden is really cool.

SunblazeSunblaze Cutting

I took a cutting of Orange Sunblaze, and after reading this rose propagation article (among others), I'm attempting to get it to root. It's my first time trying this, so we'll see how it goes.


crafting: More Recycled Yarn

I harvested more recycled yarn from an old aran I thrifted quite some time ago. At the time I liked the colors, but I never wore it. After pulling it apart and washing it, it yielded quite a lot of sport weight wool. I dried it in the sun and hanked it up into glazed twist donuts.

Recycled Wool


illustration: Savagery Wallpaper

DirtBoy 1024x768

I was messing around with Savagery lastnight and made a wallpaper.
The image I used is from century_boy_too.
Click the image above for the 1024x768.


crafting: Keeping Store-Bought Basil

The last time I grew fresh basil the plants got eaten alive by pests and died slow deaths. Allowing my backyard to grow wild for years must have invited all sorts of aphids & slugs, but I'm slowly working to remedy that whole situation.

In the meantime I buy packaged fresh basil at the Ranch 99 down the street, but apparently I've been storing it improperly for years. I can admit that after reading this eHow article I found a few days ago.

It's really pretty simple. All you do is take them out of the package, cut the bottoms of the stems (just like flowers) and stick em in a jar of water, changing the water every day. I bought this basil about 5 days ago, and since then the sprigs have straightened out and are as rigid as if they were potted. They have that great smell, and keeping them in plain sight motivates me to cook with them. This sure beats having a ziploc bag full of sludge in my fridge.


photography: Another Backyard Resident

A dove in my backyard.

Today I noticed another Backyard Resident. There were three of these doves poking around for bugs in the backyard. They saw me on the other side of the glass door, but I guess they still felt safe. I was able to grab my camera, pop on a zoom lens, and get a great shot.

I love the warm and cool grays in the plumage. There must have been lots of bugs to eat out there because these guys hung out for a while.