Friday, November 29, 2013

Let the 8 Days of Designs Begin!

Yes, all you crafty ones, it's finally here - my fall/winter collection! You have no idea how happy a dance I'm doing right now. Really. I have been bursting at the seams just waiting to show off these designs, so this is a pretty exciting day for moi.

I'm going to introduce each of the designs in the collection over the next 8 days, wrapping up with a wee little surprise at the end. So, first up (and in no particular order, really):

Pommi and Pearls Shawl

It just so happens that this design made it to the cover of the e-book and I'm introducing it first. Coincidence, maybe - but a happy coincidence? Definitely. This crescent-shaped shawl (with a slight batwing shape) is a design I've had in the pipeline since almost the beginning of the year. Worked up in Tess' Designer Yarns Cultivated Silk and Wool in the medium rose colorway, a light worsted weight yarn, not only does this beauty work up quickly, but it's also incredibly warm and snuggly. The shaping actually stays easily on the shoulders, and the slight point of the batwing can be folded over right at the back of the neck for additional warmth against those drafty winter days.
Because this shawl incorporates both traditional crochet lace and broomstick lace, I'd rate it an intermediate level project. However, there's only one row of broomstick lace, so if you love your knitting needles as well as your crochet hooks, I'd definitely give this project a try. I am particularly pleased with the final edging row (and it was, in part, inspiration for the shawl's name).

To read more about my inspirations for this collection, have a look-see at the preview book:

I want to heartily thank not only the wonderful models in this e-book, but also those yarn companies/independent yarn producers who generously provided me with yarn (including our own Wonder Why Gal, which design we'll get to in a few days). I sincerely hope they think I did them proud. I know I love the end result! Yes, I'm beaming with pride like a proud parent right about now.

Patterns will be added to the Ravelry database and my Ravelry shop over this entire weekend. Enjoy - and definitely support all those small businesses on this Small Business Saturday.

Tess' Designer Yarns Cultivated
Silk & Wool used for the
Pommi and Pearls Shawl

Thursday, November 14, 2013

It Seems Such Slow Going ...

... the newest collection that's almost ready for prime time. However, it's not really all that slow going, but it has stopped all other projects in their tracks. I am feeling like I've abandoned my Tunisian Meets Tartan CAL, but what's a designing gal to do?

Then there's this year's NaKniSweMo, which I was really all set to join in, but haven't yet (although I have donated prizes for those that do participate).

I've been wanting to knit the Evergreen Sleeve Tunic pretty much since I bought the book in which the pattern is published, like, four years ago. And I even have the yarn (in fact, I have several options in stash that will work for this pattern). I might not make it for NaKniSweMo, but I'm definitely going to give it my best effort.

After my latest collection is published. About which I'm really excited and can't wait for everyone to see. And over which I plan on drinking several cocktails.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Damn The Office Torpedoes

For better or worse, I am a product of public school education. Where I attended public school, there were few schooling options –the private, parochial school where the financially better-off sent their kids, or the public school. There were a few elementary schools dotted throughout the city neighborhoods, and then one public middle school and one public high school.

Back in the day, we were offered a public education that included elective “vocational” courses. General art class and band, while not technically considered vocational, were open to every student (and I won’t discuss what transpired when I came home with the violin; conversely, I was rather proud of all the hand ceramics I created while listening over and over and over to the Best of Bread album), as well as typing (yes, on an actual, manual typewriter) and the basics of business finances - spreadsheets and the like.
Then there were those courses that were gender segregated: sewing and cooking for girls, woodworking and shop class for the guys. While I wasn’t too interested in the latter, I also wasn’t too keen on the sewing class, but it came part and parcel with the cooking, in which I was very interested, so I struggled through seaming a pair of pants that no self-respecting teen would ever wear, and counted the class sessions left until the measuring and rolling could begin.

It was fairly well established that one took the vocational courses (especially shop and woodworking) if a student wasn’t on the universally agreed-as-better-for-future-prospects college-prep track. Since I was whizzing my way through AP English, French and Latin (oh, the verbs I conjugated), my time in cooking class was seen as pure fluff. Such is the long and winding (and expensive) road of the designer.

We internalize the popularly expressed value of work at a very early age. What all the adults pushed was the grand and glorious benefits of college, and then only a certain type of college experience, one which didn’t (and still doesn’t, really) include getting one’s hands literally or figuratively dirty. Enter Matthew B. Crawford’s Shop Class as Soulcraft, a brilliant polemic against the prevailing wisdom that everyone must be an information worker in order to have and engage in work that has societal value.

Crawford, with a Ph.D. in political philosophy and ownership of his own motorcycle repair business, makes the argument for the “useful arts” – his classification for carpentry, plumbing, electrical work and mechanical repair. Using his own rather colorful personal story, Crawford recounts his disengagement from that of information worker to transformation to shop owner where he shoulders the responsibilities of, as well as fully engages with, the uniquely complete sense of accomplishment felt when he accurately diagnoses and repairs a mechanical issue. As someone who solves construction problems almost daily (and then memorializes those solutions for the general public – you know, pattern writing), I readily identify with this sense of accomplishment.

Crawford is at his most sarcastically brilliant in the chapter “The Contradictions of the Cubicle,” devoted to his short time as an articles indexer.  The opening paragraph pretty much lays it out:

The popularity of Dilbert, The Office, and any number of other pop-culture windows on cubicle life attests to the dark absurdism with which many Americans have come to view their white-collar work. Absurdity is good for comedy, but bad as a way of life. It usually indicates that somewhere beneath the threshold of official notice fester contradictions that, if commonly admitted, would bring on some kind of crisis … it is impossible to make sense of the [modern] office without noticing that it has become a place of moral education, where souls are formed and a particular ideal of what it means to be a good person is urged upon us.”

As someone who has spent most of my adult working life in offices of many stripes, I read this chapter and kept wanting to hit the imaginary solidarity bell and yell out “ding, ding, ding.” If truth be told, I probably did do that on several occasions. And if I am kneeling at the truth altar, I must admit my brief complicity with and performance in this absurdist dance while a design school instructor. How many former students groaned at the mention of the dreaded group project? Yes, that was me attempting to instill a particular value – damn the torpedoes, and all that.

Neither Crawford nor I are in any way suggesting a disengagement from society and community – far from it. In fact, Crawford makes the convincing case that as a small business owner in the business of dealing with the real-world mechanical problems of his clients (most from his very own backyard), he gets to see the consequences of his work up close and personal just about most days. This provides him an opportunity not only to get better at his art, but to reap the benefits of such a community presence.

Of course, Crawford writes what he knows – he is a white guy and the book reflects that fact, which leads to my biggest criticism of it. In many passages, he describes his willingness to learn at the hands of those with more experience (of course, other guys), yet makes many derogatory references (backhanded and otherwise) to maternalism and catty female attitudes and behaviors. I wonder if he would have been such a willing student if the teacher had been an attractive female, or if a woman telling an off-color workplace joke at his expense might not make him just a tad uncomfortable. I do note that his references to maternalism stem more from a place of raising the status of self-reliance over dependence as opposed to someone dissing a perspective based purely on gender, yet that independent spirit he wishes to foster - which has a very rich history in this country - has been held and espoused by (mostly) old white guys.
In the end, Crawford is advocating a particular kind of agency and freedom - one which fosters thinking for oneself as well as true diversity of mind and action, no stifling office trappings attached. He describes it as a sort of neo-republicanism. I'm certain my terminal degree informs my stance that I'm not willing to use such a loaded classification, but of course I do not possess a Ph.D. in political philosophy. All I know is that once you strip away all the jargon, Crawford lives a life that just makes sense, and accessibly describes it in Shop Class as Soulcraft. It is a way of being in the world that deserves its rightful place amidst what we value.