My friends Kelly and Josh are having a baby soon and I made them a couple of tiny kimonos as a present!

Kimono #1:

Kimono #2 (please excuse the awful photography):

Pattern: Lucy’s Kimono, from Heather Ross‘s Weekend Sewing

Fabric used: Kimono #1: anonymous pale blue quilting cotton with black swallows; black store-bought bias binding. Kimono #2: all Amy Butler, all the time–the main fabric is Full Moon Polka Dot in yellow, and the bias binding is homemade, from a fat quarter of Acanthus purchased at Purl Soho, so between the designer quilting fabric and the crazy markup at Purl, this basically means it is the most expensive cotton bias binding ever. (By the way, I love Amy Butler but what on earth is this Photoshop disaster going on on the splash page? And why does it take 5 minutes to load the fabrics list for each collection?)

Pattern notes: Heather Ross suggests in the pattern intro that this is one of the easiest patterns in the book, which I think is not really true. It’s small, which is nice, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a lot; the pajama pants from this book were much larger but also much easier to sew.

I found it pretty difficult to sew the bias tape around the curve of the neck because the front meets the back at a very acute angle that the bias tape has to be eased around. I couldn’t catch the second side of the bias tape consistently on kimono #1 when I was machine-sewing, so I ended up hand-sewing the bias tape in place to finish it.

I didn’t think the pattern pieces were clearly marked (I may have traced them off wrong, admittedly, but I don’t think there were any notches and the pieces are big blocky shapes, so you could conceivably sew them wrong by 90 degrees). The back and sleeves seem to be gentle trapezoids; I assume the wide end of the back-trapezoid goes towards the bottom end of the baby, and the wide ends of the sleeve-trapezoids get attached to the body of the kimono.

I didn’t use the super-narrow bias tape called for in the pattern; I think mine was 1/2 inch. It seems incredibly fiddly to work with the suggested 1/4″ bias binding for this pattern, and my version doesn’t look terribly different from the one in the book, so I’m not totally sure she used 1/4″ bias tape in the sample, either.

There are errors in the pattern–for instance, it calls for 1/2 yard of bias tape, but I think you actually need 1 1/2 yards; it says to sew the shoulder seams with wrong sides together, which is wrong, of course–they should be sewn right side together, unless you’re going for an edgy deconstructed look for your baby garment.

The book is pretty unclear about how the ties should be handled. As any woman who has worn a wrap dress knows, both sides of the wrap cannot be treated identically, because one side ends up on the inside of the dress and one side ends up on the outside. You are instructed here to “make sure the ties themselves… extend on the right side of the Kimono Front and Back in your sewing set-up” but I don’t know what that means for the side inside the wrap. I figured that there were basically three alternatives here:

  1. Don’t do anything with the inside part of the wrap (I didn’t think this was right because the book instructs you to make two ties.)
  2. Sew the 2nd tie to the inside of the wrap and tie one bow inside the kimono and one bow outside the kimono. This might be what was intended, since the photo in the book doesn’t show two sets of ties visible on the outside of the kimono. However, this seemed both annoying for the parent dressing the baby to fasten and annoying for the baby to wear–how would you like to have a bow tied on the inside of your shirt? Probably not a whole lot.
  3. Leave a hole for the second tie to go through so both ends can be tied on the outside. This is what I ended up doing, taking a cue from every wrap dress I’ve ever owned.

I did this by basically just leaving about an inch and a half of the side seam unsewn and stitching the tie onto the seam allowance on one side rather than catching it inside the seam like on the other side. Here’s a view of the inside of the kimono: you can see the hole with one tie passing through it, and the second tie sewn to the seam allowance: these two ties are tied in a bow on the outside of the kimono.

Here’s a view of the outside of the kimono, with the one tie extending through the hole:

As you can see, the seams inside the kimono are pinked. I think it should be pretty easy to do French seams instead, since most of the seams are straight and very short, but the fabric I picked was sturdy enough that I figured pinking would hold up fine.

Lots of corners on the inside of this sucker. I accidentally pressed and sewed down the seams down kind of randomly because I wasn’t always keeping future seam dependencies in mind. Some are pressed open, some are pressed to one side. The book probably instructs you on what to do, but at a certain point I gave up on following the instructions in any kind of detail.

If you decide to make this kimono and make your own bias tape, I strongly recommend a Clover bias tape maker. You will be one cranky cowboy if you try to make bias tape with one of the crappy metal ones instead. Also, Yahaira has posted an excellent tutorial for making continuous bias tape–including a link to the conversions for how much fabric turns into how much finished bias tape.

A mother at the baby shower said “I like the kimono style because if ‘things happen,’ this can be taken off without having to pull it over the baby’s head”–a practicality that hadn’t even occurred to me, naive as I am in the ways of baby-vom, but seems very sensible.

Oh, and I got them this, too:

Why, yes! That is a Captain Kirk onesie from thinkgeek.com. A necessity for any well-dressed baby. (By the way, Josh and Kelly, if you’re still working on narrowing down names, check out this book. I think Cthulhu is a beautiful name for a little girl. Or Zaius, if it’s a boy.)

In honor of National Poetry Month, here are some lovely poems I came across recently. Enjoy!

Why I’m Here, by Jacqueline Berger

Catch a Body, by Ilse Bendorf

Richard Siken‘s tweets via the @poetsORG Twitter account on April 4. He spent all day writing a poem titled “ANYWAY” on Twitter that day (starts here), adapting it in response to questions and replies from readers, posting it line by line in real time.

I like it, by Marina Tsvetaeva

Back in January, there was a guest post on Flintknits about fabric designer Heather Ross and race and ethnicity in her fabric designs. I’ve been following the discussion with some interest, but was too busy during January to write anything about it, and by the time my schedule freed up a bit, I felt like I had kind of missed the boat on a timely response.

Pamela Wynne just posted a followup to that earlier post and I figured I would take the opportunity to bring these posts to your attention, because I find them really interesting. Even more than the posts, the comments! Go check them out. We’ve got the crazy racists, the indignant Heather, the “me toos” and oh, also the engaged and insightful dialogue about the issue.

You know, I feel kind of bad about posting this, for a couple of reasons: first of all, I respect Pam and enjoy reading her blog, and used to enjoy reading Ashley’s blog when it was still around, and I feel like this was all done with the best of intentions but that I’m about to say some bad stuff about their actions; and secondly, as a good Berkeley-raised-and-educated liberal person of color (and, incidentally, daughter of an ethnic studies professor), it’s clear to me how I think I’m supposed to feel about the issue. But I really don’t feel that way. At the risk of being the next hapless victim of the PC crafting police, here’s my take on it.

I frankly think the first post was a shameful and shallow dogpile. Heather Ross was arbitrarily picked out as a figure to crucify in the name of racial inclusiveness. Her designs clearly weren’t created with the intention of being hateful or exclusive, and come on, it’s not like she was drawing kids doing Confederate Civil War reenactments or something, they’re just some little girls playing with horses, and they just happen to all be white and blonde. Someone essentially swooped in out of nowhere, told her she should put more non-white kids in her designs, and then, when she declined, because she doesn’t need to do every single thing that consumers ask her to do, declared her to have “fucked up, in kind of epic ways,” posted her response, and tore her a new one.

Yes, maybe she was being a little stubborn in not wanting to take the various requests for diversity to heart. However, Heather Ross has a perfect right to draw anything she wants to. There’s no rule or law that says she has to be inclusive and racially diverse in her designs. If she had responded to the emails/comments with “oh sure, that’s a great idea, maybe I’ll put some black kids in my next design, it just never occurred to me and I think it would be fun” or something, bully for her. But that’s not what she wanted to do, so if she just stuck some ethnic children in her next fabric design purely to cave in to pressure, we’d just have some whimsical and adorable tokenism going on, some diversity-as-economic-commodity. (Maybe she could use the magic of Photoshop!) That’s not right.

What’s more, I think this is a crazy tempest in a teapot. Her fabric represents just a tiny corner of the fabric world, which represents just a tiny corner of the world of commercially available representational art. I’m sure there are plenty of racially inclusive quilting fabrics out there, if not via your local Jo-Ann fabrics, then through the Magic of teh Internets, and if not, with the rise of Spoonflower and other print-on-demand fabric outfits, it’s easier than ever to make whatever fabrics you want. (No longer am I beholden to the clumsy medium of potato stamps to depict my idyllic Asian-American childhood activities: Kumon math sets, Chinese summer camp, and making won ton! Rejoice, rejoice.) Complainers, you are artsy, crafty people. I know this because you are focused on buying fabric yardage. Go make some fabrics that look like what you want and maybe make a bunch of money doing it.

Plus, there are more important venues where these efforts can be focused. I know crafting is all near and dear to the heart, but these are quilting fabrics probably intended for mentally and emotionally robust grown-ups to purchase and use; perhaps it would be more constructive to focus on the dolls and items intended directly for impressionable children. Or at least to aim all this guilty rage towards a larger corporate target with a more diffuse market rather than one independent fabric designer. This is not to say it’s not an important topic, but I just think this whole Heather Ross-specific anger is kind of misguided and misdirected.

Kristen wrote a poignant response where she discusses her children’s excitement at finding dolls that looked like them. I grew up with these same feelings of underrepresentation (probably this has changed a bit with the rise of anime and manga?) I probably never thought about quilting fabrics or even pajamas or t-shirts or whatever, but one thing I remember always feeling sad about was the Pleasant Company’s American Girl dolls. Oh man, did I ever want one of these. They are such a crazy expensive scam (at the time, back in the late 80s/early 90s, it was, I think, $80 for a vinyl doll plus one outfit?), but they construct such appealing narratives around them, and all the paraphrenalia and stories made me insane with covetousness. But they never had any dolls that looked like me, and I always wished they did. I’ve written them letters over the years asking them to include an Asian doll, always with some polite response about my request being taken into account, but being subject to long market research and development timelines.

When I was a kid, the Pleasant Company’s approach to diversity was “we have a blonde white doll, a brunette white doll, and a brunette white doll with glasses”: they slowly started expanding their repertoire with a redheaded white doll, and then, slowly slowly (and I don’t remember the order in which these came, but I know they were all before the Asian-American doll), a black doll, a Mexican-American doll, a Native American doll, along with various other white dolls. Finally, although she’s just a sidekick, they introduced Ivy (from the 70s? It’s nearly time for my childhood’s decade to become “history”–good God!). Finally. I guess my point is that toys like this might be a better place to focus your requests and petitions. Heather Ross’s products are all essentially based around the brand of her individuality and personal style. Crap like the American Girl dolls is designed by committee and based on market demand, and I think has a greater impact on children’s psyches.

Don’t think I don’t notice all-white media or consumer product representations, I live in Wisconsin, for Christ’s sake, it happens all the time. For instance, check out the selection of neighborhood regulars at the Midtown Pub in nearby Middleton! Yeah, it’s pretty important, and it enters my mind all the time, and it kind of sucks that in those “what celebrity do you look like” games there are really not a whole lot of Asian females to choose from. But it’s just not the be-all and end-all, and I am not a helpless, spineless, media-absorbing jellyfish unable to stop my mind from absorbing all non-inclusive imagery and waving my sad tentacles going “noooo, it huuuuurts.” I looked at the cover of the menu and noticed this and found it a little funny and maybe a little sad, and then I opened the menu and ordered a hamburger and a beer and did not feel bad about myself or my place in the world. I could get upset, but I think the menu probably accurately reflects the reality around them–like Heather Ross’s point that her fabric was autobiographical and an accurate representation of a few faces she saw in her childhood–and I’d rather save the lion’s share of my emotional engagement for overt racism.

And I don’t deny that DIY culture and the online crafting blogosphere slant very heavily white. This commenter does a great job of articulating many of the things I see as problems with the racial issues in this subculture, so I’ll just point you over to him. (“The Feudal White Craftopia” is such a great description.) By being out here and saying my stuff and taking pictures of little yellow old me, I guess I’m probably doing my small part in helping diversify knitting blogs, but only racially: I mean, socioeconomically, I still come from a position of computer-literate, college-educated, middle-class privilege, like, I think, most of the craft bloggers out there. There’s diversity and there’s diversity.

P.S. Fun fact, did you know I started the pinny porn discussion that eventually led to the creation of BID on Ravelry? Ha ha!

P.P.S. Jesus, it’s 3:30 AM? Spring Forward, I hate you.

Edited to add: I did a bit more research and found a couple of other response posts I’d missed earlier:

Marirob

Cauchy

14 Charlie Sheen Quotes Presented by Baby Sloths, via First Things First

I got kind of annoyed with the Freakonomics guys when Superfreakonomics came out, but nevertheless, their New York Times blog usually makes for a pretty interesting read. Yesterday more than ever: they posted a letter from a young Ravelry user named Sarah Johnson about the difficulty ratings on Ravelry and whether there is “an elitist oligarchy in the underworld of knitters.”

Johnson took a look at some data from the site and asked the questions:

  • Why, on a site that contains 205,069 patterns, are less than 100 patterns user-rated as “difficult?”
  • Why are 90.3 percent of the patterns rated for quality on Ravelry considered by users to be very good or excellent?
  • Possible answer #1: Most patterns on Rav are, in fact, good and easy
  • Possible answer #2: Rav data is largely made up of input from “master craftsmen,” and their subjective considerations of relative ease and difficulty are artificially skewing the ratings on Ravelry to make patterns that are objectively more difficult appear much less so.

This in itself was sort of an interesting question, but to me, it’s more about flaws or inherent biases in the data based on the ratings collection system. Some good points brought up in the article’s comments, where the issue was discussed in much greater detail:

  • People who don’t make a pattern (by adding it to their notebook as a project) cannot rate it.
  • Most people won’t choose to even attempt to make a pattern they perceive to be out of their skill level. (When I first started knitting, I remember obsessively perusing the Knitty archives for anything rated “mellow” or “tangy,” as I perceived “piquant” to be something far above and beyond my abilities.) Due to this self-selection, anything with a rating has already been pre-filtered as apparently appropriate for the knitter’s skill level.
  • People usually don’t rate patterns until they’ve finished their project, so if something is too hard and gets abandoned, usually it won’t get a rating at all. If you’ve managed to finish a project, then most people would think to themselves that by definition, it couldn’t have been that hard.
  • There’s no lower limit on the number of reviewers needed for something to show up in the difficulty rankings, so the majority of projects rated “10” in difficulty have been rated that way by a single person.

If you’re really interested in finding the truly difficult patterns on Ravelry, it’s probably more productive to look at this discussion about the “brain surgery” of knitting.

I was more interested in trying to tease out what it actually means for a knitting (or crochet) pattern to be “difficult.”

As Stephanie Pearl-McPhee says in Knitting Rules, in response to those who say, “I couldn’t knit, I’m not smart enough”: “Knitting, all knitting–every single item–is made up of two stitches, knit and purl.” In the end, this is essentially a question of following directions someone has written down for you, using well-documented, physically undemanding techniques that are easily broken down to their atomic level–knits and purls. (I’m not thinking about designing and writing knitting patterns, which involve a different skillset and a different set of difficulties.)

I took a quick look on Wikipedia, and while I’m sure there’s a lot more relevant stuff out there that I just didn’t manage to find, what I did find was this breakdown of “characteristics of difficult problems,” which doesn’t seem to apply to what we call “a difficult pattern”: it applies to problems, and the solutions thereto, which is not exactly what we’re dealing with when looking at knitting patterns. Nothing really needs to be “solved,” unless a pattern is particularly poorly written, or you’re actually designing it. Patterns are essentially instructional texts: the ideal, if you’re a designer (and not Elizabeth Zimmermann), is for someone to be able to just pick up your pattern and knit it all the way through without running into any doubts or confusion, in “blind follower” mode.

So, rather than spending a lot of time researching existing literature about this topic, I thought about things–not just from the knitting realm, but throughout my life–that I’ve found difficult recently, and tried to figure out what I could take away from them that would apply:

  • I checked out a book of John Ashbery poems from the library and tried to understand it. I’m finding this pretty tough going. This might be a problem of not having the proper background or training to understand what techniques he’s using, what he’s alluding to, and what he’s trying to achieve; or maybe an issue of short attention span.
  • In rock climbing, short routes that you boulder (climb without ropes) are usually referred to “problems” and they are indeed often difficult for me to complete, but usually for purely physical reasons: the limitations of my own body–flexibility, strength, balance, fear, stamina.
  • In my non-knitting life, I’m a project manager, and certain projects I work on seem more difficult than others. The projects that seem most difficult to me involve either a great deal of complexity–many details, resources, files, and requirements that need to be managed simultaneously–or, more often, projects that involve a custom process, where I don’t have a good mental map of the road I’ll need to follow to complete the job, or the issues that are likely to come up and how to solve them.
  • I cannot, for the life of me, play the drums in Rock Band. I nearly always get booed offstage by those cruel, cruel virtual fans. This is a difficulty of physical coordination (if the damn drum pedal wasn’t involved, I’d do better, I think, but two hands and one foot is more than I can handle at once) and also mentally processing a lot of information at high speed, in a time-dependent environment.
  • I’m taking an Italian conversation class right now, and my instructor keeps telling me I need to jump in there more, interrupt people, talk over other people when I have a point to make, i.e. act more Italian (i.e., rude). Even though I’m pretty sure nobody would take this personally, I find it very difficult, from my social conditioning, to just jump in and keep talking over someone else until they shut up.
  • I make pie crust from scratch pretty often. Sometimes it comes out well, sometimes it doesn’t. I think a large part of the difficulty in making a good crust is that there are variations in the ingredients (how much the flour is packed down, the amount of water added, how cold the butter is), the measurements, the oven temperature, how much the dough is handled, how well the butter is distributed, how thin the crust is rolled out… a lot of factors and variations, many of which are impossible for me to measure accurately in the moment as I’m making the pie. And what do I do if I accidentally add too much water? I can’t really un-add it after the fact.

So, all that in mind, I played around with bubbl.us (which is a really fun site, by the way) to make a mind map of how I think difficulty breaks down. You’ll see a few entries that aren’t knitting-related, so I haven’t gone into them in detail, but I wanted to at least mention them since they cover some of the difficult areas I listed above. Click to enlarge to a readable size, and start at the yellow “What is DIFFICULTY?” in the middle.

Disclaimer: there’s probably going to be a fair amount of overlap in these categories, and I’ve put this all together in one big verbal diarrhea marathon session, having read the article and 2 pages of comments, but none of the discussions on Ravelry about it yet, so maybe I haven’t thought through everything super carefully, but hey, this is a hobby, not a term paper:

WHAT IS DIFFICULTY?

Knitting difficulty mind map

The high-level categories I broke this down into are:

1) Difficulty in understanding instructions–essentially, user error or designer error (or maybe not “error,” but the inherent difficulty of describing certain techniques or presenting certain types of information without taking up 20 pages). Many of the patterns rated “10” for difficulty were rated by 1 person, and this undoubtedly reflects a lack of experience, or understanding of the rating system, more than anything terribly difficult about, say, this felted purse or this cabled hat. (Maybe that’s just me being a presumptuous elitist oligarch?)

2) Difficulty in achieving desired results–Let’s put it this way. I think there’s nothing inherently difficult about knitting a top-down raglan sweater. Knit knit knit, follow directions–increase a bit, put some stitches on waste yarn, knit knit knit. Eventually, if you can follow directions, you have a sweater. However, there are plenty of difficult things about knitting a top-down raglan sweater that actually fits you, whether it’s making the sweater too loose or too tight, the sleeves too long or short or different lengths, the neck too tight or way too huge, or some unholy combination of the above. This is mostly unrelated to knitting patterns, but I do think it’s something that often leads to people saying a project was hard. I’ve broken this down into:

  • Fit–Fit and Gauge both overlap the category I’ve labeled Mental Difficulty, as the issue of “difficulty” here is that for a sweater to fit right and look flattering, you need to customize the instructions to suit your own specific requirements, which forces you to enter the realm of design–measuring yourself, measuring your work, doing a lot of math.
  • Gauge
  • Irrevocability of actions–sorry for the unwieldy title, I couldn’t think of anything better. Basically, how hard is it to go back and fix something if it’s wrong? This is the cause of a lot of difficulty in non-knitting fields (and in fact I should have broken out “time constraints” separately), but one of the things that I like about knitting is that this factor often doesn’t enter into the craft at all. In my examples above, think of playing drums in Rock Band: once I’ve hit the wrong drum, I can’t go back and fix it, and it matters a lot if I play the drums super slow when I’m not supposed to. Unlike knitting, where I can knit as fast or as slow as I want, and if I do something wrong, I can usually tink back and fix it. There are, however, a few areas where this plays a role in knitting. Steeking is the most obvious: if you take the scissors to your colorwork sweater and then find out you screwed up, there’s no going back. Felting is another one (though it usually covers a multitude of sins)–you can’t take the extra water out of your pie crust, you can’t unfelt your felted purse. And I’ve also listed “difficulty of correcting previous errors” here: if you get to the end and see that you accidentally purled where you should have knit ten rows below, in a plain stockinette sweater, you can drop that stitch and fix it with a crochet hook, but only the insane will attempt this in their Niebling lace. Even Nancy Marchant finds it hard to correct errors in brioche stitch.
  • Unsuitable materials (also listed under Physical Difficulty)–If you use sari silk, don’t be surprised if it’s nearly impossible to make, say, a ribbed hat that will stay on your head.

3) Social difficulty–while this is a cause of so, so many difficulties in life, maybe the vast majority of them, for the most part, it’s not relevant to knitting pattern difficulty (or only tangentially so, e.g., anxiety about asking for help when you don’t understand) so I haven’t gone into any kind of detail about this. Perhaps one issue to note here is the phenomenon in rock climbing of “sandbagging” when rating the difficulty of climbing routes: giving a climb an easier score than it deserves. I think of knitting as being a non-competitive activity, but at least one commenter on the article mentioned the possible shame factor of rating something “easy” as difficult for them–“nobody likes to be thought a fool”–leading to lots of patterns being rated easier than they should be.

4) Physical difficulty–again, in life in general, issues related to physical limitations are far more common than in the world of knitting (in my list above: rock climbing, playing drums, making pie crust), but this is definitely one of the important factors in determining knitting pattern difficulty.

  • Unsuitable materials, again: Typical conversation with beginning knitter: “This is so hard, this hurts my hands!” “What yarn are you using?” “Lion Brand Homespun.” Well, of course it hurts your hands. I found my You Bastard Scarf very, very difficult–not because of the scarf itself, which was mistake rib (just knits and purls) but because of the Camissimo yarn, which was basically a dressed-up version of inflexible, snaggy Homespun for yarn snobs.
  • Difficulty of execution–Some stitches are just physically harder than others to execute, no ifs, ands, or buts. Anything involving purling 5 stitches together through the back loop, or cabling 12 over 12 stitches, for instance. Seafoam stitch is one of the easiest lacy-looking stitches there is (being just fancied-up garter stitch) but I actually find it kind of hard to work for purely physical reasons, because the extra wraps always get stuck on my needles and wind up being hard to push along.
  • Being “fiddly”–I guess this overlaps a bit with “difficulty of execution” but doesn’t necessarily have to do with just the execution of the stitch pattern–the notes I made on this item were: “limited space, opposing forces (small-scale knitting in the round, picking up stitches, twined knitting constantly twisting, intarsia with a million bobbins)”

5) Mental difficulty–this one’s the biggie when it comes to this craft, and I would argue that the biggest item under “mental difficulty” is actually:

  • Novelty. Pretty much everything is hard when you’re doing it for the first time. This relates to my example about difficult, custom-process work projects above–when you lack a mental toolkit to draw from, when you haven’t practiced something and have no muscle memory, internalized background information or recognition of common patterns, every single step becomes a struggle or a source of doubt; there’s none of the mental coasting you can do when you’re doing a familiar and well-understood task.
    • When you’ve knit 10,000 plain stockinette stitches, you don’t have to think about them anymore. I’m sure the same is true of making 10,000 entrelac squares. I find entrelac a somewhat difficult technique, but not because any of its component parts are actually difficult for me. I just haven’t done it often enough to immediately understand, when I’m looking at my work, “oh, here’s where I pick up X stitches along the edge of Y rectangle”–so I need to refer back to the pattern often, or stop and think about what I’m doing, it’s not TV knitting for me. But there’s nothing hard about knitting, purling, picking up stitches, or decreasing, just about understanding what’s going on without consciously having to think about it at every stage.
    • I get emails every so often from people who have bought Prickle and are freaking out about the moebius cast-on or the sideways knit edging. These things can be very difficult the first time you do them, when you’re still trying to figure out what exactly is going on, but once you get used to them, there’s nothing especially difficult involved.
    • I read stories sometimes of people who say “I’ve been knitting for 25 years but all I can do is knit,” and they mean it–no purling, garter stitch only. This is a little blasphemous, sorry, but to quote Gracie Allen, “Never place a period where God has placed a comma.” We almost all put down periods in all kinds of areas of our lives where there should be commas, including deciding that everything you’ve learned to date (knitting, purling, increasing, decreasing…) is OK, but drawing an arbitrary dividing line of difficulty when it comes to steeking Fair Isle, moebius knitting, charted lace, or two-color brioche, or what have you. I firmly believe nothing in following knitting patterns is that hard in the end, it just requires you to build up your mental toolkit to handle it without so much conscious effort.
  • Calculations/customization–again, this typically falls outside the scope of a knitting pattern itself, except for some that are built like worksheets rather than for “blind followers,” but there is certainly far more mental effort involved and far more risk of error once you stray from following a pattern and into designer territory
  • Creative leaps–see the entry above. You shouldn’t have to do this unless you’re working from a spectacularly poorly written pattern, or making a lot of modifications. I did make an arrow to “background knowledge”–as a broad base of background knowledge is often a required input for successful creative leaps or lateral thinking, and feats of recall are often what makes work in other arenas “hard”. Based purely on watching a bunch of House M.D., I imagine that this is part of what makes a doctor’s job difficult, drawing on a large amount of observation and stored background information to come up with a diagnosis and treatment plan. In a similar, if less important, vein, I spent a bit of time yesterday for work troubleshooting a corrupted file and trying to figure out how to repair it with the tools we had on hand, under certain time/budget constraints. Or see my John Ashbery problem from my examples above. A lot of “difficult problems” we need to solve in everyday life fall into this category, but not, typically, in knitting.
  • Ambiguity of next required step–Part of the mental toolkit you build up when something goes from being novel to being well-known and understood is the ability to figure out the next step. This (like many of these entries) should probably go back to poor pattern writing as well. The other thing is that, when you get into instructions like “knit into the back of the stitch 2 rows below,” it can be really hard to figure out where, exactly, that is instruction is referring to: alles klar with the stitches on the needle, but there’s a lot of confusion with terminology when it comes to the rest of the knitted fabric. Crocheters will probably disagree with me here, but one thing I find difficult about crochet as compared to knitting is that you can’t just look at the next loop queued up on your needle: you need to figure out where in the existing fabric to stick your hook and which parts of the stitch to put the hook into, and (being an inexperienced crocheter) I usually get that wrong. Commas and periods.
  • Attention required–along with novelty, this is a huge factor in difficulty ratings. Like with Physical Difficulty, there are certain patterns where you just have to pay a lot of attention, no way around it. There are different types of attention, though:
    • Difficulty in reading your knitting: (and in catching mistakes quickly, as they happen, and reassuring yourself that you’re on the right track without having to backtrack and count…) I remember remarking at TBKGE after knitting my Hemlock Ring that I was having some issues with keeping track of my work. Kalani said something to the effect of “I’ve never heard anyone call Feather and Fan ‘hard’ before” and–well, it’s an extraordinarily easy pattern to memorize and to physically execute, and it only requires thought in one out of every 4 rounds or so, but the issue I was having with it was that it was hard to read, and I was constantly paranoid that I’d let my mind wander and gotten the whole pattern shifted off kilter by a few stitches over hundreds of stitches. This is the same thing that makes people eschew colorwork worked flat: it’s hard to see what’s going on from the back of the work, and floats get in the way.
    • Complexity: Even if there are thousands of stitches on your needles, you only knit one stitch at a time: how complex can it be? The issue with complexity in knitting, I think, is when there are multiple simultaneous instructions or requirements to keep track of: the infamous “at the same time…” that has sent so many knitters into the depths of despair is one of them; how about “decrease while maintaining st pattern” (also requiring on-the-fly calculations), or Bohus knitting, requiring you to work with more than two colors and a mixture of knits and purls? Part of this is an issue of pattern writing and the constraints of space and readability in knitting patterns: you’ll often see people solving the complexity problem by rewriting or re-charting their size of a sweater to spell out all the instructions line by line, so they don’t have to remember to do something every four rows at the same time as they’re doing something else every fifteen rows. If a sweater pattern has eight sizes, it’s not feasible for the designer to write everything out line by line in this fashion for every size, but the knitter can do it as an aide-memoire for their one size to reduce complexity. There are patterns that require a lot of modular pieces to be assembled and I suppose that might fall into this category as well.
    • Size/scope: patterns for large items with thousands of stitches or patterns that may be smaller but very dense or non-repetitive both require a great deal of attention: stamina, in either a lengthy, sustained concentration, or an intensely focused concentration that does not allow for breaks in attention. For example, there’s this distinction between “lacy knitting” and “knitted lace”–the former employing plain rows every other row or round, where the work is only knitted, without any patterning stitches in play, and hence offering the knitter a chance to rest and recharge without constant concentration. I haven’t tried a Niebling yet, or pictorial lace like the Heere be Dragone shawl, but my guess is that it’s this question of scope that makes them difficult. I can read a chart, I can knit lace, but can I do it for hundreds of rows and thousands of stitches without losing my place or messing up? An analogy that came to mind for me was proofreading a language you speak, like English, versus a language you don’t, like, for me, Hindi (at work it comes up occasionally that I’ll need to verify if text has been pasted in accurately or if it’s been misplaced, characters dropped, etc.). In English or another Latin-alphabet language, my eye can scan over the page at the word level with a reasonable level of accuracy, whereas in an unfamiliar language like Hindi I have to go character-by-character, with a much greater visual focus and heightened attention.

Phew! (Speaking of sustained attention, I hope you’re still with me…) With all that in mind, let’s look at a few examples of “difficult” patterns:

  • Morrigan, by Jenna Wilson: a fine-gauge twisted stitch pullover. In theory, if you’re following the directions, there’s nothing hugely different about this than this same designer’s chemo cap Shedir (warning, PDF link): the differences are chiefly in scope and the problems of achieving proper gauge and fit in a form-fitting sweater versus a hat.
  • Katherine Howard, by Jade Starmore: scope and fit are obviously issues again here, but in addition we run into novelty and complexity. It looks like there are 3 or 4 colors used per row in some rows (can’t tell if those little bobble things are knit in or embroidered afterwards), and… I’m not sure exactly what’s going on with the colorwork and texture, but I think it’s maybe intarsia with cables and short rows? A lot of crap going on simultaneously that you don’t see every day, in any case. I don’t find the end product an especially attractive sweater, I’m sorry to say, but it is certainly extremely technically impressive.
  • Drifting Pleats, by Lynne Barr: this is just a scarf on a stockinette ribbed base [corrected 2011-03-03], so issues of gauge, fit, complexity, and scope don’t really enter into it: I think the issues here are with novelty and possibly also physical difficulty (keeping the needles holding the pleat stitches organized and out of your way). I don’t know of any other patterns that use this pleating technique, so it’s going to be a completely new experience for most people trying it, leading to missteps and confusion about what is being explained–but looking at the notes in Ravelry, most people said that it wasn’t hard after it “clicked,” and the scarf’s overall difficulty rating is not as high as you might otherwise expect.
  • Forest Path Stole, by Faina M. Letoutchaia: entrelac plus multiple different lace patterns (many with shifting stitch counts)–to me, I’d have issues with the novelty of this combination of pattern techniques and tracking my progress: until I got used to the pattern I’d be afraid of picking up the wrong stitches since this can (to me) be confusing and ambiguous in entrelac, and it would be hard to tell until the next long row if you’d screwed it up. Not to mention that lace can be confusing in and of itself, and it’s easy to accidentally drop or add stitches. You are, however, working the same little lace squares over and over again rather than one long row of repeats of the lace pattern, so I’d think it would be easier to at least check at the end of each square if you’d done it right. But if you mess up the entrelac, it’s also very hard to go back and fix problems in a pattern like this.
  • Geometric Star, by Kaffe Fassett. From Kaffe’s “Glorious Acid Freakout” collection. This is a problem of complexity all the way–I have no idea how many colors are being used per row but I’m sure it’s more than one and fairly sure it’s less than fifty. Since it’s a sweater, I’d normally say there’s a gauge/fit issue here as well, but frankly, if you’re wearing a one-size-fits-all, chunky-weight, tragic-kaleidoscope-accident colorwork sweater I don’t think you care all that much about how good it looks on you in the end.

OK. Phew. 4500 words later, I think I’m going to call it good and go 1) read what everyone else in the Ravoblogotwittersphere is saying about this topic and 2) maybe do a little bit of actual knitting instead of just blabbing about it. What are your thoughts on all this? Have I overlooked something massive, or am I ignorant of some huge body of literature already existing on this topic? What makes a pattern difficult for you?  What do you think about the NYT blog post and Ms. Johnson’s interpretations of that data?

(Oh and one last thing: I ran across this gorgeous peacock feather scarf, Fremont Street, when I was doing pattern research for this post–sadly, it seems to be rated difficult because there are a lot of errors in the pattern, so I probably won’t bother knitting it until they release corrections, but I think it is beautiful. I didn’t want to discuss it as a “difficult pattern,” but thought I’d point it out in case anyone else wants to give it a go despite the reported pattern issues.)

–corrected 2011-03-03: Lynne Barr wrote to me that Drifting Pleats is on a ribbed base, not stockinette. Oops, sorry, Lynne!

Check it out, I finished something. It only took me 2 months to knit 150 yards. SO PROUD OF MYSELF.

Pattern: Anthro-Inspired Scarflet by Kim Seio (link to my project on Ravelry)
Yarn used: School Products Multi Strand Cashmere in taupe, unsure of how much but I’d estimate about 150 yards–left over from my Eastlake sweater
Needles used: US 8 (5.0 mm)
Date started: December 19, 2010
Date completed: February 19, 2011
Mods/Notes:
This little keyhole ascot is a knockoff of Anthropologie’s Toasty Rose scarf (pics may not work on that link, but there are more here.) Under 200 yards, simple knit/purl/increase/decrease, it should have been a quick little knit. So why did it take me two months? I have no good answer for that. I knit about the first third of the scarf in a couple of hours, then apparently knit about 3 stitches a day for the remaining 1 month and 29 days.

It’s worked in a tidy broken rib (“Sand Stitch”) that looks very nice but is still mostly stockinette, so has a tendency to curl a bit. It’s pretty cute, but note that the weight of the flower pulls it strongly to the front of the neck so it’s hard to keep it to the side or off-center, if that is how you want to wear it.

The pattern doesn’t come with a pattern for the flower. Here’s what I did:

  • CO 116 sts with tubular cast-on (this forms the visible edge of the flower petals, so it looks nicest with this CO)
  • Work in 1×1 rib for about 1 1/2 inches
  • K2tog across
  • Bind off, leaving a long tail
  • Using the long tail, sew a running stitch through the lower half of the strip of ribbing (ie parallel and close to the edge closer to the bound off edge), going in and out about every 1/2 inch, for 2 rows spaced about 1/4 inch apart, and pull tight to gather.
  • Roll up the strip of ribbing, folding/crumpling the flower until you like the way it looks, then sew down to the outer keyhole portion of the scarf.

I had meant to just roll this up like in the original Anthropologie scarf, but the flower looked bizarre and enormous, like a cinnamon roll or something, so I preferred the more gathered look in the end.

As an aside, it is astonishing how many photos you need to take to get even a few decent ones out of the batch. Kristen wisely demonstrated this FOR SCIENCE!… but still, it always amazes me; this time I probably had 50 shots that I thought looked great in the viewfinder, but when I got a good look at them on the computer, I realized I actually looked blurry, crazy-haired, fat, generally derpy, or whatever. This all with my best attempts at makeup, soft natural light, trying not to look like a total cross-eyed idiot, etc. and not even counting the dozens I knew were hideous right away and deleted without downloading.

I wore this white eyelet dress when I was a bridesmaid a few years ago. (How great is it that I have a bridesmaid dress that I got to pick–only the “white eyelet cotton” part was specified–and that I’d actually wear again?) My earrings aren’t really visible but they are these ginormous antiqued bronze flowers with pearls in them from Modcloth and I love them.


I’m going to pretend you can’t see those mop handles in the background. Or maybe you can imagine them as all part of an grand, artistic, high-concept fashion photoshoot. Also I just realized my bra straps are showing in several of these photos, whoops. Please imagine it is a $300, hand-stitched tussah silk bra from Anthropologie and this is all part of the grand styling plan, because I don’t want to go to the trouble of Photoshopping these, or, God forbid, taking more photos of this scarf.


The purple in this photo should be much more red-toned, but the scarf color is actually pretty accurate.

I need a haircut and this dress needs ironing.

I was interested to see today that Knit Picks is continuing their expansion into the cult classic yarns market with a knockoff of Rowan Kidsilk Haze called Aloft. $6.99 for a 25 g skein–about half the price of Kidsilk Crack. I wonder how it compares with Elann’s longtime contender, Silken Kydd? Or Artfibers Tsuki? Or Shibui Silk Cloud? (oops–edited table to add Lion Brand Silk Mohair, which I’d forgotten)

All pre-packaged yarns weigh 25g Rowan Kidsilk Haze Elann Silken Kydd Knit Picks Aloft Artfibers Tsuki Shibui Silk Cloud LB Silk Mohair
Mohair/silk ratio 70/30 70/30 75/25 60/40 60/40 70/30
Yardage 229 yds 232 yds 246 yds n/a, sold by the yard 330 yds 231 yds
Super kid mohair specified in fiber content? Y Y N Y Y Y
Suggested gauge 18-24 sts/4” 18-24 sts/4” Not specified 22 sts/4” 20 sts/4” 17 sts/4”
Suggested needles US 3-8 US 2-6 Not specified US 6 US 7 US 8
Colors 31 currently listed 7 currently in stock 15 currently listed 19 currently listed 13 currently listed 6 currently listed
Price $14.95 $6.50 $6.99 n/a, sold by the yard $17.00 $8.00
Price per yard 6.5 cents 2.8 cents 2.8 cents 4 cents undyed, 5 cents dyed 5.2 cents 3.5 cents

Thoughts:

  • KSH has the best color selection but is also crazy expensive (in case you hadn’t noticed).
  • Tsuki has a more limited color range, but is also the only one that offers hand-dyed multicolors
  • Tsuki and Silk Cloud have the highest silk content, Aloft has the lowest
  • Silk Cloud is sold in the highest-yardage putup
  • I don’t think the suggested gauge or needles are significant–I’m sure these are all interchangeable
  • I’m not sure if the lack of “super kid” designation on Aloft was intentional. Maybe it’s scratchier than the others?
  • Silken Kydd is the cheapest per skein
  • However, Silken Kydd and Aloft are the same price per yard
  • Knit Picks offers free shipping for orders over $50, and shipping is pretty darn cheap even when you have to pay for it, so once you factor that in, it’s probably the cheapest choice by far… on the other hand, Shibui and KSH are sold through retailers instead of direct to consumer, so you have a better chance of finding random sales or discount codes than with the other yarns
  • Silk Cloud seems the most expensive but is actually quite a bit cheaper than KSH once you look at the yardage

EDIT: Feb 22, KP confirmed that Aloft also uses super kid mohair!

Here are some projects I’ve made with

Honestly, though, I couldn’t tell you the difference between any of them unless I had them side by side.

I haven’t yet had the pleasure of a whole project with Silk Cloud, Lion Brand Silk Mohair, or, obviously, Aloft.

Next I hope Knit Picks comes out with a knockoff of Rowan Calmer!

Edited for full, FCC-compliant disclosure: after I wrote this post, the folks at Knit Picks kindly sent me 3 skeins of green Aloft yarn for free! (I didn’t know they were going to do that when I wrote it.)

I am in a weird in-between state right now because I have nothing actively on the needles (well, maybe a few hibernating projects hidden around the house, but basically the only thing I have to do at the moment is weave in ends, sew together, and block a little ascot thing I’ve been working on for about a month. A month!)

I have this sort of mental startitis that’s keeping me from actually starting anything–just daydreaming about “wow! I should make that!” and instead of actually getting the needles and casting on, I sit there clicking on links and adding things to my queue until I realize I feel kind of sick from staring at the computer for so long, or have something else to do, and nothing gets done.

I think part of this might be related to my printer being in our poorly insulated sunroom/office, where the temperature is currently hovering around 40 degrees… inside our house, with all the windows shrinkwrapped with insulating plastic… so printing things out is a bit like taking a Polar Plunge. Deep breath, run into the other room and shut the door, try desperately to remember which of my USB ports is mapped to which of the five copies of my printer in the Print menu before I get frostbite.

Anyway, so, yeah, I don’t have much to share in terms of WIPs or FOs but here are a few of the things I’ve been eyeing:

  • This Ginkgo shoulderette shawl, which is free, mostly stockinette, and so gorgeous! It looks like it might be a nice one to give the Brooklyn Tweed treatment, i.e. knit it up in some Aran-weight yarn to make it gigantic and cozy while keeping the yardage low.
  • From the newest Knitcircus:
    • Blue Lupine mitts, although probably about half this pattern-lust is because the Shelter yarn looks so tweedy and pretty. I don’t wear fingerless mitts very often.
    • Victoria, though mainly because I thought the accompanying article about armholes was really fascinating and I want to put it into practice and find out all about my own armholes and shoulder width and all that. (As an aside, I sort of can’t believe I have written thousands and thousands of words about things like fascinating armhole sizing techniques and new ways to graft and seam; I’m afraid I’m turning into this Hark! A Vagrant comic, “The Sweater Issue,” as every magazine in my house right now is basically some variation on Yarn News or Figs ‘n’ Things. If you asked me ten or twenty years ago where I hoped I’d be at 7:30 PM on Saturday, February 5, 2011, I’m pretty sure my response would not have been “in cold-ass Madison, Wisconsin, eating Goldfish crackers and writing a blog post about a vest I might knit to find out about how big my armholes should be.” Maybe “judging a cat show after a hard day’s work as the world’s first fashion model astronaut President” or “dazzling the intellectual glitterati with my beauty, wit, and huge piles of riches in a palace in Rome,” at ten and twenty, respectively.)
    • And this is not a knitting pattern, but Bezzie’s hazelnut macarons look crazy delicious and I do have a big bag of hazelnuts figuratively burning a hole in my kitchen cabinet.
  • From the latest Knitty:
    • Constantine, although I think a cape made of seed stitch might kill me from boredom, and while it looks cute on the model, I don’t like the sound of “the addition of a belt creates the illusion of sleeves and a waist.” 1) because I don’t want to also have to knit a belt, and 2) I really don’t want my sleeves or waist to be “illusory,” I have enough troubles with fashion and figure-flattery as it is.
    • Gweneira–creamy, snowy, cabley goodness. Susanna IC is really getting a lot of mileage out of this variations-on-a-crescent-shaped shawl thing, but I fall hard for whatever it is every time. (Why fix it if it ain’t broke?)
    • Joanie, because I’m a sucker for reversible cables, even if I think Joan Holloway wouldn’t be caught dead wearing this, at least not unless it was about five sizes smaller. Maybe I’m wrong and I just haven’t yet made it to the season of Mad Men where she starts wearing big wool sweaters with a “loose, slouchy fit” and no waist shaping?
    • Chrysanthemums, which I would like to wear with exactly the same color scheme, outfit, and pensive look as shown in the photo. Gray on white just kills me; these look so good!
  • a project in the new KP Chroma worsted weight yarn–looks and feels a lot like a feltable version of Crystal Palace Mochi Plus, more than a Noro yarn, as it’s much softer, finer, and more evenly spun than most Noro yarns. Self-striping from Knit Picks! I can’t even tell you how excited I am about this, and the price is right: $9 for 198 yards, with coordinating solids.
  • Damask, I can’t remember if I posted this before, but this is a gorgeous, gorgeous shawl.
  • This sweater whose name is way too long. Not a ton going on, but it seems very wearable.
  • And last but not least, I have a couple of ideas for some amigurumi. Possibly involving a cloaca! I know that sounds super appealing! More on this exciting teaser later if this pans out.

Which of the above will be actually worth the Polar Plunge and wind up being printed out and cast on? Only time will tell.

OK, maybe next time I post I’ll actually have something I made that I can show you.

In the meantime, please enjoy these videos of a baby monkey riding a piglet (note: the guy who made this video was the lead singer of Nerf Herder, who wrote the Buffy theme song!), ice skating chimpanzees, and Pavarotti and Lou Reed singing a song about heroin together. “Baby Monkey (Riding Backwards on a Pig)” is my new favorite song. “Perfect Day Feat. The Weird and Inappropriate Vocal Stylings of Luciano Pavarotti,” maybe not so much.

Pattern: Horned Owl, by Hansi Singh (rav link to project)

Yarn used: Wool Candy Fondant Merino DK in Truffle and Robin’s Egg, left over from another project; scraps of white yarn for embroidering the eyes

Needles used: US size 3/3.25 mm

Date started: November 14, 2010

Date completed: November 18, 2010

Mods/Notes:
This little owl made his first appearance melting a Dalek’s heart:

I made this owl as a gift for my cousin’s new baby–it will be a few years yet before he’s properly appreciated, but I think he’s completely adorable. Hansigurumi patterns tend to be very fiddly, with lots of grafting, but this one wasn’t bad; mostly worked in the round, mostly pretty straightforward.

  • The pattern is pretty skimpy on instructions for the embellishments. I ended up cutting a piece of CC yarn, folding it in half, threading the doubled end through a yarn needle, sewing a stitch and tying a square knot, doing this across several stitches and going back and tying knots in the strands between groups, then trimming everything and running a yarn needle through the yarn ends to fluff it up and separate the plies.
  • After the backwards legs on my Jackalope, I didn’t trust the “pick up stitches for left wing and work same as the right wing” instruction, so I worked the second wing separately, held it up to the owl to determine proper orientation, and sewed it on, to avoid the heartbreak of finding out one wing was backwards after knitting the whole thing.
  • I love the garter stitch texture on the wings, and the wee owly claws!
  • The pattern doesn’t give you required yardage! It doesn’t use much yarn, but beware if your yarn yardage is limited.
  • The picked up sts under the beak came out super loose and I had to duplicate stitch over them to tighten them up a bit.
  • I used small needles, and the owl came out pretty small. 6 inches high, maybe?



He is personalized with embroidery in the wingpit:

I’m all for the handmade presents initiative, but didn’t want to stress myself out with too much Christmas knitting. So I spent Sunday afternoon at the Boston Bazaar Bizarre and had a fantastic time and bought so many wonderful Christmas gifts for people (and myself)–between my queue (which is doable, I think) and the purchases, I have almost everyone covered now. It was probably the best craft show I’ve ever been to, and I’ve been to quite a few! And I ran into someone from Saturday’s knitting group, and got a chance to meet Shannon Okey, and I ran into my coworker on the way and made an unscheduled detour to a thrift store with him, so it was also a success on the social front.

I picked up about 50 million business cards and thought this might be a good place to list the links to my favorite vendors from the show, in case anyone else is getting a little frantic about the 20 remaining days till Christmas and wants to do some online shopping for lovely crafted goods. And also so I can throw away the pile of business cards 🙂

Vendors I didn’t buy from:

  • Survive Design–I loved this black owl bag with yellow straps with a burning passion, but I need another canvas tote bag like I need a hole in the head. She said she’s coming out with messenger bags next year–hopefully I’ll remember to check her store again at that point.
  • Shara Porter–fantastic leather purses and bags screenprinted with animal designs, including sturdy little snap frame coin purses.
  • Baublefish–clever little sterling silver charms in various interesting categories–e.g. Suburbia features a flamingo lawn ornament and a TV dinner.
  • Twigs and Heather–absolutely gorgeous silver jewelry cast from natural objects (maple seed pods, twigs, acorns, birch bark…)
  • The Merriweather Council–cute colorful bunting, and little embroidery hoops or embroidered jewelry covered in seagull-esque V’s
  • Sarah Ressler–her bird paintings are to die for but I think the smallest were around $60, totally fair but more than I was looking to spend.
  • Fuzzy Ink–cute hipster tees along the lines of what you’d see on Threadless or shirt.woot. And mustaches, lots of mustaches.
  • Alli Coate–lovely prints, pillows, purses. I like the patchwork turtle.
  • Bark–more hipster screenprints. Look at this catalope!
  • Figs & Ginger–Beautiful jewelry, a bit out of the range of what I wanted to spend today, otherwise I would have walked away with one of these fawn in a circle necklaces for sure.
  • Ian Henderson–bizarre, organic-looking rubbery jewelry. Not my style, but really cool.
  • Miaow–their site seems to be broken right now, but they had handmade stuffed animals starting from $35, including very cute sculptural birds like this.
  • Zooguu–many adorable spherical stuffed animals. BunnyWhaleElephant!
  • Boston Handmade–all of the above, and more!
  • Urban Spectacles–these guys weren’t at the show (they’re Chicago-based), but I saw someone wearing these really amazing wooden eyeglass frames and she said this is where she got them. They’re all bespoke, no price ranges listed, but apparently they range from $500 to “high hundreds.”
  • 314 Studio–lovely modular origami-inspired jewelry
  • Gnome Enterprises–more hipster tees. Porcupine ❤ blowfish.
    Nervous System–the most annoying URL to type ever! These jewelry designs are apparently automatically generated by a computer program that mimics natural phenomena and produces things that look like dendritesxylem, etc.
  • Beehive Kitchenware–pewter silverware, so fantastic. If only I had $50 to spend on sakura measuring spoons.
  • Monkeyfoot Designs–not at the show, but on Saturday I saw a custom bag she’d made and got her name so I can maybe order a waterproof laptop bag. The seams are sealed inside so it’s really waterproof (no open holes from the sewing machine needle) and the bag had a soft touch interior, not a vinyl type of surface like in most waterproof bags. NASA likes her too, apparently, they ordered a bunch of her bags for astronauts to use!

Now, if you are reading this and you think you might be getting a Christmas gift from me, READ NO FURTHER. DO NOT CLICK “MORE.” DO NOT PASS GO. Spoilers lie ahead.

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