Full Circle

My husband and I recently celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary.  Yes, deep breaths, twenty-five years is a long time and we have the scars to show for it.  His wedding ring had been worn down to a paper thin circlet by years of working with his hands, so we decided that we would melt our rings together along with a relative's beautiful old gold ring and have them remade.  A local jeweler did this for us, and when I picked them up everyone working in the shop was inordinately pleased with the final product.  They were all talking about it, these people who do this for a living, and all wanted to see the rings on and point out the craftsmanship.  I was a little surprised by their enthusiasm, but equally thrilled with how the rings turned out and happy to oblige.

Last night, Elizabeth Thompson did a trial run of her ring class with the Craftstitutes.  We do this when we're not quite sure what the snags are going to be in a class situation.  The three of us taking this class were a perfect range of the kind of students to expect for a class like this:  Erika, skilled in many things, was seeking to expand her repertoire;  Erika's friend, sitting in for Lisa, had made rings before long ago and was looking for much needed creative relaxation.  As for myself, the consummate project crafter with no experience or skills in metal work, I brought a vivid mental image of the desired final outcome of the evening's work.  

Learning new skills gets easier the more you do it.  Every craft has terminology and tools to identify and understand.  There are steps and processes to learn and mistakes to make.  Elizabeth, who comes to us via Brooklyn and a successful career as a jewelry designer, proved to be a fantastic teacher - calm and encouraging, offering thoughtful feedback and crack ideas for creative roadblocks.  


One thing I love about classes like this is the opportunity to try something new without an investment in equipment.  Elizabeth had everything necessary to produce beautiful rings, so we were able to enjoy the process without having to cob together the tools.  This is no small thing when you have a project in mind.  And while my jewelry making will remain in the classroom with teachers providing the structure and the tools, because heaven forbid I take up another craft, Erika and her friend were already discussing learning advanced soldering techniques and complicated designs they would like to try.  We all left satisfied with the evening's work.

This morning, as I looked at the rings I had made and the beautiful wedding band recently replaced, I was in awe of the skill that creates a perfect seamless circle with no beginning or end.  The magic of learning is that you appreciate more.

Robin xo

Yarn trunk show? Oh yes.

I have an embarrassing amount of yarn.  Bins and bins of yarn.  When we travel and I see a yarn store, my husband gives me the look, you know that look, the one that people who have known each other forever use to silently relay whole sentences.  I don't need to tell you what it means, because some of you also have bins of yarn, or stacks of fabric, or collections of craft supplies, and you know exactly what is wordlessly conveyed.

It's sometimes very nice to be traveling alone, or to know there is a conference to attend, or in the case of this weekend, a century ride that will take most of what is forecasted to be a rainy Saturday in the White Mountains.  Such a shame that Patternworks is a 15 minute drive from my sister-in-law's lake house.

However, I won't be spending any money this weekend on yarn because we have Brooke Sinnes of Sincere Sheep coming into town next week for a trunk show.  

From Sincere Sheep website

From Sincere Sheep website

Oh my.

I have a fatal attraction for the kind of colors she obtains from natural dyes.  FATAL.  I will not be about to walk away from the blues or the purples with their undertones of gray....

Brooke is committed to terroir, which is often a way of describing wine and the earthy qualities obtained from the area where the grapes are grown - the soil content, the regional climate, and the weather in a particular year.  Because Brooke's business is located in Napa wine country, this idea resonated with her and she initially sourced wool from local farmers. Thirteen years later, she has expanded her offerings to include wool sourced from across the country, while including blends that take up the natural dye colors she has worked hard to master in distinctive ways.  

Run to her Instagram account to see the pretty colors.  Go ahead, I'll wait.

Next Thursday, Aug. 4, Brooke will be bringing her stunning yarn to the Craftstitute.  You can talk to her about her natural dye journey, pet the pretty yarn, and fill that compunction we have to envision the next project.  Accompanying Brooke is knitwear designer Julia Farwell-Clay, whose designs have appeared in Knitscene, Pom Pom Quarterly, and Interweave Knits - to name a few.  I am smitten with the Niela Cowl, Hiro Petite, and the Tambourine Cardigan.  

The two have graciously offered to create a kit (yarn + pattern) as a door prize for the evening, which you can win just by showing up!  Double your chances with an RSVP on the "class" listing - it's free and you don't have to put in your credit card.  I know this because I was the first to sign up.  Join us for this fun and free event, it's a wonderful chance to meet people following their passion and making a career of it and support their effort.  Plus, snacks.  Bring your knitting and come hang out for the evening.


Julia's stunning Metronome - from her website.

Julia's stunning Metronome - from her website.

Summertime... and the living is easy....

This summer feels different.  Maybe it's the lack of rain, though today's showers made a dent in the drought conditions.  Maybe it's my job that requires me to be a little more orderly with my time.  Maybe it's that the nine year old, my MiMBY Girl, has spent the last ten days with her grandparents in Tennessee, thus interrupting our usual summer pattern of spending the afternoon with friends at the pool, picking berries, and hiding from excessively hot days by curling up and reading or watching a "show."

When I feel unsettled, it's hard for me to be creative.  I tend to fall back on knitting - it's reliably soothing and occupies my hands while my mind wanders.  I've been knitting Hitofude, which is pleasantly mindless as far as lace patterns go.  It was supposed to be for me, but I broke the cardinal rule of garment knitting and didn't do a gauge swatch.  As many a teacher (and parent!) has said before me, "Do as I say, not as I do."  My daughter is getting a lovely cardigan when it's finished.

The good thing about my circle of friends is that when I falter they pick up the slack.  One friend is planning a Smitten Kitchen evening of cocktails and desserts inspired by the creative genius of Deb Perelman.  We did a trial run and it was pretty stupendous.  Another friend, a fabulous knitter, came over for help with a handsewn skirt.  She brought flowers.  We talked about books we were reading and our parents and somehow didn't talk about our kids at all.  

Erika has been busy plotting out some new classes and events that you'll see on the website soon.  One might involved metalsmithing.... I'm only slightly excited at the prospect.  There is a wonderful natural dyer coming to show her yarns, and one of our instructors will be videotaping an instructional video at the Craftstitute space for a new product.

Writing this reminds me why we started Craftstitute.

- Robin

So, I've been sewing...

Robin and Erika are both really good at sewing. I'm not. But I've always wanted to do more, get better. I showed great promise in 7th grade when I made a stuffed hippopotamus in home economics class. I got a 98 on that sucker and I still brag about it.

I struggled with a crappy machine in my late 20's. Later I picked up a vintage machine at a yard sale. It moved with me, cluttering up my Boston apartments for years while I fooled myself into believing that just owning it would get me sewing.

Fast forward a bunch of years....including the last ten in which I have been knitting incessantly...and I meet Robin and Erika.  And I learn that sewing with the machine ain't the half of it. There's picking, choosing, washing, pressing, measuring, pinning, cutting - a whole multi-step process that takes time and space.  (Oh, the geometry we could be teaching kids....!) It's not grab and go, like knitting. And sewing also requires a different kind of headspace, one which I am trying to cultivate.

I've enjoyed keeping track of my knitting and crochet projects on Ravelry because I've been able to chart my progress. In the beginning, I was sure I'd never make socks or a sweater - never mind a cabled sweater. Today I have an embarassing number of sweaters under my belt.

And now I'm sewing. I've accumulated a small pile of sewing projects (two from the past weekend) that really aren't that great. I'm pretty sure i wouldn't wear any of them in public yet. But each one is a little better than what came before.  It went a little faster and there was less cursing.  And now I find myself obsessing about bias tape and seam allowances.

Robin taught me how to sew cloth napkins using mitered corners and how to box corners on a tote bag. Cal Patch and Maya Donenfeld ran a weekend workshop on how to block print fabric and then whip up a Mexican folk dress (not my style at all, but I loved learning to make it).  Maya also taught a t-shirt skirt class for us. I made one in the class and went home and made another the next day. She knows so much about sewing machines and got me experimenting with different decorative stitches.  Also, I had no idea that zigzag was used for stretchy fabric.

Other crafty folk have turned me on to Sonja Philip's 100 Acts of SewingColette sewing patterns, and Japanese patterns books like Happy Homemade: Sew Chic. Erika showed me how to add some shape to my second 100 Acts of Sewing dress. And she is going to help me modify a long gray wool Flax coat (no rush, Erika). Could we possibly transform it into a NaturevFuture style? Swoon.

Cal Patch also has a book on pattern making. I measured and drew and sewed a skirt from her book. Trying to install an invisible zipper (not part of her instruction) had me tearing my hair out, but I was trying to wing it. It didn't come out so great. I later learned the proper way to install zippers from one of our super talented instructors, Liz Woods. She also taught a newsboy cap class - lined, interfacing, the works. That was pretty challenging for me - my brain hurt trying to conceptualize that 3-D inside out stuff. But I love my hat, mistakes and all. 

I'm sure I'm missing a few foibles, projects and props to people who've shown me things, but you get the picture. I've been inspired to get better by surrounding myself with people who are good at sewing and happy to share what they know. 

My dream is to one day make actual pants that are tailored and fit really well. It could happen.

See my little rogues gallery below. :)