Thursday, February 25

Wednesday, February 24

Experiment #1

I've had a few ideas floating around my head for awhile now, and so last week I decided to proceed with one of them. I knit most of my bags in the round (so they are all one piece) because it works and I like the look of the felted result not really having any seams. But I've been thinking about a lot of different things, and knitting in the round is limiting to a certain extent. There are some color work designs that I want to use but just haven't been able to figure out how to make them in the round. So I decided to do something with seams, i.e. make the base, front, back and side panels separately and seam them together at the end.

Have I mentioned that I hate seaming? I really do. I don't know why and usually it ends up being less of a pain than expected. But I always dread doing it.

So I planned the bag out in my head. (If I could sketch, this sort of thing might be a lot easier.) I made the base and then picked up the stitches on each side to do the panels so in the end, I only had the side seams to sew up. I've seen some felted bags with the seams on the outside and I thought it looked kind of cool so I decided to seam my bag on the outside. It makes for a chunky sort of edge. I could tell as I knit that things weren't really working out as planned. They were kind of working, but not entirely. But I decided to push forward so I could learn from my mistakes.

Once I got it all seamed and the strap knitted, I knew by looking at it that it wasn't going to work out. The color work design would probably be alright, but the construction of the bag was all wrong. I almost frogged it as to not waste the yarn. In the end, I decided that I would go ahead and felt it because one, felting is always surprising and it could end up working out and two, even if it did turn out to be a disaster, I could learn something useful from it. Maybe I could figure out how to make it work.

I wasn't even really sure that this color work pattern would felt well. But I knew if it did, it would be pretty awesome.

In the end, the bag did not work out.

Failed experiment.

Excuse the horrid picture, but it's still in the drying phase. The color work design definitely worked out. I think it looks pretty neat, but as I suspected, the construction of the bag just kind of sucks. It's all lopsided and wrong and the seams on the outside look too bulky and awful. Of course my husband likes it, but he always likes my mistakes the best. Perhaps this will be his new "man bag". (Um, not really.)

It hurts a little bit to lose the yarn, but really, it's okay. I know I need to figure out some other way to use this particular color work design on a purse. And I know that I don't like seams on the outside, at least not the way I did them here. I also learned that I still don't like seaming! I'll probably try it again at some point, but I think I will approach it differently. I also think if I had put two handles on this bag instead of a strap, it might have worked better. Live and learn, that's how it goes.

Friday, February 19

My first press!

My line of felted bags and bowls which I call JW Handmade got mentioned in this week's edition of Local IQ, an Albuquerque newsweekly. I'm very excited about the hook up! A super nice end to a very long week.

Thursday, February 18

On knitting needles.

Most of you probably know this, but knitting needles come in a large variety of sizes and lengths, circular and straight. It can get expensive when every new project needs a different size of needle.

When I first taught myself to knit, I was lucky in that I had just inherited quite a variety of straight needles from Granny (Will's grandmother). I don't think I had every size, but I had a good mix of sizes for a beginner. I could make worsted weight scarves or chunky ones. (Back then I really gravitated towards the chunky!) And scarves were pretty much all I made for a few months so I wasn't worried about circular needles.

Eventually I moved on to hats and started purchasing the circulars. I always bought the Clover Takumi Bamboo circulars because they are readily available at hobby stores like Michaels and Jo-Ann. And I fell in love with the bamboo versus the aluminum straight needles that I was using. The Clover brand is also affordable so they fit my budget.

I loved making hats and over the years, I ended up having most of the needles sizes in the 16-inch circular length. And because I loved the feel of the bamboo needles, I picked up a few sizes of straight needles. (Plus some of Granny's needles were pretty worn down so I felt like replacements were justified.) Then, a few years ago when we visited my aunt and uncle in San Diego, I was sent home with my grandmother's knitting supplies. So I have doubles and maybe even a few triples of straight needles. In other words, straight needles are covered.

Of course as my passion for knitting grew, I realized that I wanted to make something besides scarves and hats. So I'd pick a pattern and find that I didn't have the needles required. Right now I have a few 24-inch circulars and a few 36-inch, but nowhere near what I need for any given pattern, especially now that I am (tentatively) delving into sweaters.

For the next sweater, I need two new circular sizes which probably amounts to $25 to $30 if I buy the Clover Takumi needles. Not too bad, but what about when the next sweater needs different sizes? Or if I do a gauge swatch and realize I need a size up or down? That's another $10 to $15 and another $10 to $15 and so on. It adds up pretty quickly.

So. (And yes, I realize I lost most of my audience awhile back.)

I started looking at interchangeable circular sets. I know a few people who have the Options Interchangeable Harmony Wood Needles Set and really like them. I get a good bit of my yarn from KnitPicks and that set is so very pretty, so I was leaning in that direction. It's a decent range of sizes, gets okay reviews, and again, so pretty! But around the same time, I happened to pick up some KA bamboo needles at Tutto. They are totally affordable and I ended up really liking both the straight needles and the circular that I bought. They are so smooth and nice.

So when in my interchangeable circular set research, I discovered that KA makes a set, I was interested. Slightly more expensive than Options and a different set up, but bamboo, which I love, and such a cute little cloth case!

I went back and forth over the two choices for days and finally decided to go with the KA set. So yes, I spent $99 on needles, but in the long run, it is way more cost effective that buying the needles singly. The KA set amounts to 39 different combinations! So that's $99 for 39 sizes versus $35 or $45 for 3 sizes. See, makes sense, right?

When my set arrived the other day, I was thrilled! Look how cute!

And I realize there is no perspective here, but it's a bit smaller than a Moleskin journal. And on the inside...

needles all in their own place plus a little pocket on the back for the circular parts. It is so compact and awesome. A good investment, for sure. I think I am set for awhile.

Wednesday, February 17

The Tuesday Night Cowl.

I've been wanting a new cowl all winter and now that I took a little break from knitting "work", I managed to get one done. It is the Tuesday Night Cowl (Ravelry link) and I really love it. I wanted something kind of chunky without being overwhelmingly chunky. I also wanted it to fit a bit more closely around my neck than the one I made last year. And I didn't want it to be too wide. Wide is good for outside, but I was thinking more of something to wear around the house. Looking at the photos of this pattern, it seemed to fit the bill. I love cables and this pattern is all about large cables. And the pattern has directions for chunky, aran and worsted weight yarn. Which means you can sort of play around with the size by using the instructions for aran with worsted weight yarn to get a slightly smaller size.

I just happened to have some of my favorite yarn ever in my stash, Malabrigo Worsted (leftover from the cowl I made for Sandra) so I was good to go. For once I did not have to buy anything for a new project.

It knit up quickly and I decided not to block it because I like the "scrunched up" look.

Before seaming.

Here it is before I seamed it together. I am not a huge fan of seaming things, but this pattern requires the kitchner stitch which is grafting live stitches together and I really dig it. It takes a bit of concentration to avoid mistakes. (In other words, if my husband starts talking to me, I may not hear what he is saying.)

Tuesday Night Cowl.

I'm quite happy with the results. The yarn is so soft and cozy, it feels great around my neck. (No itchy scratchies!)

And while it is a bit wider than I wanted, it works. When it's pulled all the way up, it's good for heading out into the cold.

And for inside, I just fold it over to the inside and it's perfect. I've been wearing it nonstop since I finished it the other day. I'm so sick of turtlenecks and yes, I know this goes around my neck, but it feels less claustrophobic. I love it!

Tuesday, February 16

Valentine's Day Dinner.

Will really outdid himself with this dinner. It was so perfect and delicious. What a nice husband I have!

We started off with brie and cranberry pomegranate sauce on melba toast. It was so good, I had to force myself to stop eating it. Had to save room for the main course.

Which was

homemade polenta with green chile and parmesan cheese.

And yes, I know my pictures are not pretty, but our kitchen does not have the best light after the sun goes down. Plus I think I was really more interested in eating than documenting our meal!

Moving on, with the polenta we had braised short ribs that were completely amazing. Will used the recipe from Seduced By Bacon. (We so love that cookbook!)

To drink we had a tasty Rioja, one of my favorites.

And we actually sat at the table instead of watching television like we usually do. Nothing fancy, but I thought it was sweet. Note the beautiful flowers that Will got for me.

Dinner really was fabulous and such a nice treat. For dessert we shared a chocolate pot from Whole Foods that was quite decadent and went nicely with the wine. I have such a thing for good red wine with good chocolate. It can be a bit dangerous at times.

After dinner we did watch television, but hey, it was the Olympic figure skating competition. That qualifies as romantic.

Thanks baby, you are the best.

Monday, February 15


A very old friend of mine, Dusty, is in this band called Half Acre Day and they have a new single and video out. Both are awesome!

They are going to be releasing a new single for every month of the lunar year. I think that's pretty awesome too.

Skeletons is available for purchase at iTunes.

The Melting Season: Trailer

Have I mentioned that Jami's latest book, The Melting Season, is a great read? (I've read it twice!) Well, it is and you should pick up a copy at your local bookstore, or if you would like a signed copy, you can order one here.

You should also check out this sweet little trailer for the book.

The Melting Season: Trailer from James Patrick Robinson on Vimeo.

And after you buy the book, you can be a dork like me and take pictures of yourself while reading it.

The Melting Season.

See how much fun you are having already!

Saturday, February 13

On the list of things to make.

[Image © Jane Richardson]

The Jane Hat. Not that I really need another hat, but this one is too cute and I need some smaller projects to do. Also, this is one I can make with yarn from my stash. Right now not spending anymore money is a good thing.

[Image © Jane Richardson]

Yes, another top down sweater! By the same designer as the Cozy Bolero. (Obviously I am much attracted to Jane Richardson Designs.) This one looks like it will be a more flattering fit for me plus if I need to change the length or anything, it'll be a snap to do. I don't have the yarn for this one yet, nor the needles, but I am hoping to get to it in the next couple of weeks.

I've also been wanting to make myself a cowl and I think this is the one that I am going to do, the Tuesday Night Cowl (Ravelry link). I like the chunky look and I have some bright turquoise blue Malabrigo Worsted in my stash that I can use. I might start this today, but I haven't decided yet as I also need to get back to work on some new designs for the shop.

What are you working on? (Doesn't have to be knitting!)

A happy weekend to you all!

Friday, February 12

Happy Birthday to Rocky!

Happy Birthday to Rocky!

Today my sweet boy is 11 years old.

He looks grumpy here because he wasn't really in the mood to have his picture taken.

Rocky is the light of my life. He always makes me smile. Sometimes he makes me really mad too, but that usually doesn't last too long. How could I possibly stay mad at that adorable face?

He's lived in Pittsburgh, Brooklyn and Santa Fe. I think Brooklyn was his least favorite because he had to stay indoors. Santa Fe might just be his favorite although he always seemed to like Pittsburgh too.

He's traveled across the country with me. Three days in a car is tough for a cat, but he was a trooper. I don't think he really wants to do that again though.

He has many battle scars as he doesn't really like other cats. Or dogs. In fact, he and his brother Simon don't even like each other and they have lived together for 6 years now.

He's had x-rays and an ultrasound done on his heart. (He has a slight heart murmur.) That was another tough experience for him, but he was a very good patient through it all.

He's also had his teeth cleaned and now gets his teeth brushed at home. He likes the seafood toothpaste but could probably do without the brushing part.

He loves to eat. A LOT. I think I can safely say that food is his very favorite thing ever. Unfortunately he has an eating disorder - he binge eats - so his food intake has to be monitored.

When we lived in Brooklyn, he weighed 20 pounds. Now he weighs 14 pounds and steps lightly.

He also loves the outdoors. He loves to nap in the sun and roll in the dirt. Right now the cold makes it hard to spend much time outside and he's been a bit frustrated and bored. We're all looking forward to spring.

I'm guessing that he doesn't know today is his birthday. But that's okay, we'll celebrate his life anyway. He brings much joy to our household.

Rocky is the best. I love him dearly.

Thursday, February 11

Shop update!




Blues to fight off the blues, red because I always love red and gray because, well, we all need a bit more gray don't we? (Okay, maybe not, but it's still nice!)

I love blues. Turquoise blues especially. Every time I order more yarn, I find myself with every color of blue in my cart and I have to remind myself that yes, there are other colors!

Reds are good too and this red is a good red even though the photo doesn't get it quite right. (Why is it that my reds never come out accurate but other colors do?) I'm really in love with this new cable pattern too. I think it turned out especially well.

Soon to come...more rainbows and well, something that is yet to be revealed.


Check out the Mad Orange Shop for all this and more!

Wednesday, February 10

The sweater without sleeves.

Cozy Bolero.

Here's the sweater as it is now. It looks right and I think it fits right, although I can't say that it looks great on me. But I haven't blocked it yet so that could make a huge difference. I'm not going to block it until I add the sleeves. And I can't add the sleeves until I get the needles I need. I ordered them this morning and they already shipped so hopefully by early next week, this little project will be complete.

Following the larger size directions with the smaller needles seems to have worked out very nicely. The only modification that I made was adding two extra rows of ribbing on the collar.

I'm really hoping that the sleeves and blocking make this into something I will wear. If not, I'll either pass it off to someone else or stash it until I need the yarn for something else.

I bought the new Knitscene this afternoon and boy does it have some cute patterns in it! There are couple of things I'd like to make, but it's just so hard to buy the yarn needed. Even the smaller sweaters call for 5 or 6 skeins of yarn and when that yarn is 8 bucks or more a skein, it gets really expensive, really fast. But maybe after sales pick up a bit, I'll splurge on something.

Too cute.

While Will and Cassidy were trying to get Stephen's boutonniere pinned on, I realized that I have never been to a formal dance. I didn't go to a single dance in high school, not even prom. So I missed all this getting dressed up and pinning flowers on stuff. I joked that it is the root of all my troubles now.

That whole thought process made me think of Pretty in Pink. There's a scene in it where Iona (Annie Potts) and Andie (Molly Ringwald) are talking about the prom. Iona tells her about the friend she has that feels like something is wrong every once in awhile. She checks her purse, counts her kids...and then realizes it's because she didn't go to the prom. That always cracks me up.


We watched the movie last night. It's still a decent movie. I think that when I was 15, I was happy that in the end, Andie ends up with the cute guy. Now I kind of wish she had ended up with Ducky.

For the van lover.

Vans and the places where they were.

[via abellmas on twitter]

Tuesday, February 9

The sweater.

I fancy myself a fairly decent knitter. Not super advanced in that there are many things I have never made (like socks or a pieced together sweater) and I don't always know what to do intuitively. But I am damn good at following a pattern. Give me a well written pattern and I think I could make just about anything. (Well and the internet has to be handy too so I can look up things that don't make sense initially.)

But this sweater. Good grief.

I first saw the pattern on a blog awhile back, then again recently and since I'm taking a little break from making handbags, I thought, what the heck, I'll buy the pattern. (Because not selling my things means I have tons of money right now. NOT.) It's a fairly simple pattern and looks super cute in the photos. I'm all for top down sweaters since there is no seaming involved. And this pattern has sleeves unlike the top down vest that I made last year so I figured I'd kind of be learning something new. Kind of.

Okay. Next, the yarn. Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick & Quick is easy enough to find and it knits up super quick. But oh yeah, it costs money, doesn't it? Lucky for me, it was on sale the day I was at Michaels so I purchased my 3 skeins for under $15. I also bought the needles that I thought I needed.

I cast on and started working on the sweater this past Saturday. I got the increases done before we left for ABQ and on the way to ABQ, I managed to finish the body of the sweater.

But something wasn't quite right. The sleeve holes looked really small. And the length was way too short. I mean, it's a bolero type sweater, but still, after the 16 rows directed, it was still super short. I kept fussing about it, trying to figure out what was wrong. Did I read the pattern wrong? No. Am I crazy? Maybe. I tried it on my nieces shoulders and it kind of worked, but no, something was wrong.

Finally I got on Ravelry to see if there were any notes about the pattern. That's when I realized that I had read the needle size incorrectly.


The pattern clearly states "15mm - 32-inch circular needles". But I stopped at the 15 and started the project with US 15 needles. Um, big difference. On Ravelry, it says "US 19 / 15 mm" which is what finally made my brain snap about my mistake.

This kind of bummed me out because I don't have that size needles and they aren't super common. And the pattern calls for the longer size circular as well as the 16-inch circular so now I was looking at spending more and more money. I did some research online and found both sizes for a cool $26.50 each. Um, no. Not going to happen. I finally gave up and we headed out to meet my brother and his family for dinner.

The next day we stopped at Michaels on our way out of ABQ and lucky me, I found cheapo plastic needles in the longer circular size. Not a lot of fun to use as far as knitting goes, but hey, for $4.99, I can't complain. So I cast on again and went to work. Right off the bat I didn't like the bigger holes in the knitting, but whatever, I pushed on. I skipped the sleeve part since I don't have that size yet and went ahead to add the body border and collar. It was definitely the right size now. Also very baggy and saggy and kind of too big.


So do I knit on, order the needles I need for the sleeves (which I finally found for a slightly better price) and make this sweater that I will probably never wear?

No. (When I first started knitting, I made a ton of things that I never wore and I refuse to do that anymore.)

I keep the body intact to use as size comparison and cast on yet again with size US 17 / 29-inch circulars which I actually already have. (This is a size difference of 15mm to 12.75mm.) I start off by knitting for my right size and after I get past the armholes, I realize it's too small. So I rip back up to the end of the increases and start following the directions for the next size up. As I knit, I keep measuring and comparing with the other sweater and it seems to being going well.

Right now I have just finished the body border and need to start on the collar. It's much smaller than the second version I did on the jumbo needles, but I think it's actually the right size. So I am going to keep going. And order the needles I need for the sleeves. (Oh, one other benefit to top down sweaters is that you can try them on as you go.)

I suspect it still may end being gifted to someone else, but after so many freakin headaches, I am going to finish the damn thing.

And next time? Next time I am knitting a sweater in fine yarn that will take me forever to make. But it's going to fit me perfectly. Just you wait.

(And for the record, I did numerous gauge swatches and they were all so close that it was hard for me to decide what to do.)


Getting ready for the Winter Ball at her school.

I took a bunch of photos of her while she was getting ready (and she didn't even get annoyed with me!) and this is my favorite.

Such a beautiful girl, my niece. (All of them are.)

Saturday, February 6

Friday, February 5

Thursday, February 4

It's been a tough week.

I guess it's just the time of year and all the gray days that we've had lately, but let me tell you, I have been feeling so blue and depressed. It's...well, it's depressing. I don't particularly like feeling so heavy and hopeless. I know it will pass, it always does. But right now it is just hard.

I thought that the whole getting the shop done thing would make me feel like a million bucks. It's been hanging over my head for so long. I've been saying, "I'm going to get an Etsy shop up" for a good year or so. So to finally get it done was quite the personal accomplishment. Of course there are always the berating voices. Why didn't I do this a year ago? Or at least last fall? Why am I so bad at taking risks? I try not to listen them too much, but this week they have been the loudest voices around. And you don't even want to know what they are saying. I mean, I don't have a job and I am almost 40 and I don't even know what I want to do besides knit. So yeah, you can imagine what the voices are saying.

Anyway, the whole shop thing kind just sent me in a bigger downward spiral. My expectations about it were way too high so when I made my big announcement and then nothing happened it was really disheartening. I don't know what I thought. I guess that I would have a sale or two and that some friends would mention the shop here and there and it just didn't really happen that way. And I felt like somebody had broken my heart into a million little pieces.

That said, I did get a few nice notes from people, a mention over at dangerousmeta (Thanks Garret!) and positive comments from my family. And I am grateful for those kind words.

Yesterday I spent the day knitting (and wondering if I should even bother at this point) and thinking about what I can do to get over this mess. And get on with my life. And well, that's what I have to do. Just get on with it. Keep moving forward, working at this thing I love and maybe also figure out what else I can do. (That's a tough one for me.) Because part of me feels like this is a sign that I am not going in the right direction. I don't know. I'm too old to be this clueless.

As for the shop, I'm not giving up on it. I realized that I shouldn't have had any expectations at all. Not about the shop and not about people. Ventures like this take time and I am sure eventually I'll sell a few things and all the time and effort will suddenly feel like it was totally worth it. I like what I do and I don't need to give up just because things didn't go as I hoped. I watched a movie about Coco Chanel yesterday (not the latest one, this one) and it made me feel better. Not to say that I am anything like Coco, but it was the right kind of movie for me to watch. She didn't give up after a few failures. She just kept doing what she loved and worked hard to make herself into what she wanted to be. Nothing is impossible.

February. I think February is always hard.

And today, well today I don't feel much better and it's still gray outside. But I'm just going to keep going. I'll run and eat and water my plants and finish the bag I am knitting and eat dinner and read and go to bed. And who knows, maybe tomorrow I will feel great!

Thanks for letting me share.

[After I wrote this, I made my tea. The little saying on the tea tag said, "May your inner self be secure and happy." Made me laugh.]

Tuesday, February 2

Getting organized.




In early January, I received another big order of yarn and realized that keeping it in the big bag on the floor wasn't ideal. I felt bad about taking away Rocky's yarn bed, but something had to be done. I ended up buying a bunch of plastic ITSO cubes at Target and stacked them up in the closet in my office. The perfect solution! Now I can organize my yarn by color, sort of, and get a better view of what I have in my stash. A very happy thing. Of course now I am already running out of space because I went a little yarn crazy last month. I would really like to get some more cubes, but I have to sell some things first plus I don't have a lot of room left in my office to add more storage. But the cubes are great. Although buying them was quite an adventure as I was alone and only two cubes actually fit in a cart. I managed to stack up four cubes on the cart and carried the other two in my hand. It worked alright until I went out to the parking lot. All the bumps in the pavement made it difficult to keep the cubes steady in the cart. I am sure it was a very funny sight. (And of course no one offered to help. Not that I really expected it, but if my husband was at Target and saw someone struggling with 6 cubes, he would definitely help. He's a gentleman.)

Monday, February 1

The Big Day.

New Etsy Shop!

At long last, my Etsy shop is up! Please check out the Mad Orange Shop. I have loads of felted handbags and bowls, plus a few one off things and some postcards printed from various Polaroid images. The selection will always be growing as I am always making new things. I have lots of ideas in the making and now the "getting it started" part of the shop is done, perhaps I will have more time for experimenting.

This shop has been a long time coming and I am not sure why it took me so long to get it going. A bit of fear, I would say. And I'd like to say that now I have breathed a big sigh of relief, but not so much. Now my shoulders are all tensed up wondering how this little shop will be received. I know, I know, I need to just let it go and carry on. But this is what I have been doing for the past year. Knitting and felting and hoping to get an online shop going. And, well, what if nobody buys anything? EVER. Then what? But better to have tried than to have not taken the risk, right? Right. Always better to take that risk.

*Big sigh*

So I hope you will take a peek and even if you're not in the market for anything now, maybe keep it mind for down the road. I know times are tight for most people these days.

I will probably be posting updates as I add new things and you can always find the shop link over there in the sidebar.