My Knitting to Please Myself Project

follow-your-passion2When a passion becomes a job it often changes the passion or even empties it out. There have even been studies about this. The landscaper who once had a beautiful garden gets so caught up with other people’s hard-scapes and gardens that his own are neglected. The knitter who began designing for herself with a sense of intrepid adventure lapses into design silence. There are no projects on the needles.

There are, of course, landscapers who constantly invest their creativity in their own garden, and so it becomes an oasis, an inspiration for others. If you reclaim knitting for yourself, perhaps the designs that result will be more sought after than the ones you thought would sell.

Lately I have been contemplating what I want to knit. Perhaps it is because Noni is 10 and I am looking back at where I started, the things I have done, and where I want to go.

But before I launch into ideas for myself (and I will in upcoming posts), I bet there are a lot of you who also don’t always knit to please yourself . . .

I’d love to hear in the comments what you would really like to make for yourself, or just for the pleasure of it . . . and for some reason you haven’t, yet.

When you seek inspiration, look into the world

Bluebells-Gauntlets-with-Forget-me-notsI look forward to and enjoy Spring flowers more than I ever did before I wrote my book on knitted flowers, Noni Flowers. It has always been my favorite time of year, but the process of working on knitted flowers for my book taught to me notice things about plants that I had previously been a bit blind to: the structure of a flower, the coloring of its petals, the way it unfurls, the shapes of buds, the procession of leaves, bud, flower. . . there are details I had not previously noticed. I notice the color of stems now, the shapes of sepal leaves, the colors and form of stamens all with an eye not just to enjoy but to knit.

The Forget-me-not flower details we can't usually see.

The Forget-me-not flower details we can’t usually see.

When an interviewer asked me, on the heels of the book’s publication in 2012 what inspired me to make these flowers, “lifelike flowers,” my answer to her question is, in many ways, the same answer or, rather, advice that I gave to writing students so many years ago and to my knitting students now: When you seek any inspiration, the basis for a story, a description of place, events in the past or future, a design theme, a color scheme, a fair isle design, the colors to pick for the tulip you might be inclined to knit out of my book, you don’t have to come up with that material whole cloth out of your own brain.

tulip-color-possibilitiesIf I resorted only to what resided in my mind already, the flowers I might knit would look little different from those in the drawings of daisy-like or tulip-ish flowers I drew as a child. They were approximations of what I was then capable of drawing, the flowers most familiar to me.

I suggest to all of my students to become better observers of the world, but also to trust their own creative impulses. So often we talk ourselves out of our ideas. The first idea might be so grand we don’t think we can possibly make it real . . . but maybe we can. Maybe you can. When I started working on my book, I didn’t know if I could pull it off. But I said I could and I told Random House I could. And then I did. There were flowers I chose not to try, telling myself they were too hard: orchids, for example. but I am quite certain now that if I set my mind to sit down and work on an orchid until I could hold the finished one in my hand, I could do it. I could make an orchid out of yarn.

It’s not easy to sit down and do what you don’t think you can do. . . but what if you do and you create something amazing. There are examples of this everywhere. Take a look at this inspiring Ted Talk “Embrace The Shake” by artist Phil Hansen. And his inspiring and unconventional work:

Phil Hansen's beautiful portrait on Starbucks cupsHis recipe for exploring the limits of your creativity?

phil-hansen-quoteDon’t talk yourself out of your creativity.

Expect to fail. Expect the creative process to lead you to a place you might not have thought you’d go.

 

Better: Adding a simple flower to a tiny bag for a big statement

Red-Bag--better-with-flowerAbove you can see our little red bag dressed with a single Camellia flower. I love this look. Simple, big statement, quick knit. If you’d like to knit this flower yourself, you can buy the pattern now. To make the flower as pictured, I used a size 6 needle and a single strand of worsted weight yarn. 5 larger petals (as written) and then 4 – 5 smaller petals.

Check back tomorrow for another “Better” dressing idea for this little bag.

We’ll save the Best for later this week!

Noni Q&A: Beaded Hearts on Heart on My Sleeve

2-Hearts-2Noni’s Heart on My Sleeve, is embellished with beaded hearts . . .they are beautiful, but took a bit of trial and error before I hit upon the right technique for getting a solidly beaded heart that was a pretty shape.

I rejected a bunch of lop-sided hearts (all of which got undone) before we came up with a plan for beautiful hearts every time.

Find a clean, well-lit place to work, of course: Lay down a piece of clean paper or other material on your work surface – when beads are involved, sometimes it’s nice to put down a towel so if beads go astray they don’t roll everywhere.

Gather Your Materials: No. 8 seed beads, a small dish in which to keep them, a beading needle, nylon beading thread, your almost finished bag, and scissors or thread nippers.

Decide on the Location for a Beaded Heart:  or, if you can’t decide, just pick some place with abandon. Start on the inside with your double-strand of thread knotted on the end.

Zinnia-HeartFirst, Outline The Heart with Thread:

Outline-the-Heart-with-threadAs you can see above, I used a modified running stitch. A backwards running stitch will also work. I use the outline to guide the beading process.

Second, Outline The Heart with Beads:

You can see above that I have started to follow the thread outline with beads. I go all the way around then decide how much of the heart to fill in. Sometimes, I only filled in part of the heart.

Christmas-Red-HeartFill the Heart With Beads:

hearts-at-the-bottom-of-the-bag

I have not scientific method for this process, save I keep traveling through the felt until I get the tip of the needle out again, put a bead on the needle, and then go back into the felt (rather than all the way through–in this way, I can stay working on the outside of the bag), catch a bit of the felt, and out comes the needle somewhere else ready for another bead. i do not feel that I must start at the bottom and fill in from the bottom up or the inside out or the outside in. My only concern is that I stay inside the lines.

Questions?  Post them here and I will answer in the comments or add to this blog posting.

Noni Q&A: Turnlocks 101

Bettie-Boop-resizedI have had a number of inquiries as to the best way to put a turnlock in a felted bag. In fact, in a workshop last year some of the participants chided me for not having done a video or blog tutorial on this subject. I took the pictures below at that workshop as we were working through the steps. So, thank you to the participants in the bag finishing workshops at Ann Marie’s shop Yarn Diva. What follows is a step by step explanation of the method I taught in that bag finishing workshop, and the same method use in the bags I make myself.

First, gather your materials: The turnlock flap can either be the flap of a bag – the Dinner Party Backstage, for example, could sport a turnlock instead of a fancy magnetic snap – or a narrow flap made specifically for the turnlock – this is the case here.

Materials-List-CompleteYou will also need newspaper to protect your work surface, a damp paper towel for clean-up, a bottle of fabric glue or Locktight Superglue, specifically the Extra Time Control formula (sorry, not pictured!), a pen to mark the turnlock flap, a small screw driver, scissors. and, of course, the turnlock itself.

Step 1: Place the turnlock

First, you should place the turnlock in the center of the turnlock flap. You may want to measure with a tape measure to make sure it is where you want it.

Measure twice, cut once.Measure Twice, Cut Once.

Step 2: Mark The Spot for the Lock

I recommend using a black pen or Sharpie to mark the location of the turnlock on the front or back of the turnlock flap. While we show it on the front of the flap here, it may be better to mark up the back just in case you need to revise the placement.

Mark the spot where the turnlock will sit with a black pen or Sharpie.

Mark-the-spot1aMark-the-spot2Step 3: Cut Out the Marked Space

Now you will need to cut the felt, so be very careful and deliberate. The image will you have drawn on the back of the turnlock flap will be just slightly smaller than the actual hole needs to be. Cut to that marked size and then slowly shave a milimeter at a time until the lock housing fits through the cut out without any buckling or tightness.

Cutting-out-the-spotStep 4: Apply Glue to the Turnlock Front

The turnlock will be held in place best if it is glued in place. First, apply your fabric glue or Superglue to the “front” of the turnlock housing as shown below.

Put-glue-on-the-back-of-the-turnlockAbout this much glue.  Be thorough but conservative. It is not necessary to take the glue all the way to the edge of the turnlock face because then it may show on the felt – not a good look.

About-this-much-glueStep 5: Glue the Turnlock Flap In Place on the Lock Face

Put the front (right) side of the turnlock flap down on the wrong side of the turnlock face. Press in place with your fingers for a good stick.

Put-the-flap-down-on-the-turnlockStep 6: Apply Glue to The Back of the Turnlock Flap

In order for the flap to be thoroughly held in place in the turnlock housing, apply glue to the cut edge of the felt once the front side is face down on the turnlock front housing.

Put-glue-on-the-backside,-tooAbout this much glue. Again, too much and it will be a difficult mess.

About-this-much-Glue2Step 7: Put the back of the turnlock housing wrong side down on the newly glued surface and press in place. Line up the holes for the screws with the screw housing.

Put-the-turnlock-back-on-over-the-glueUse your little screw driver to tighten the screws.

Screw-those-super-tiny-screws-tightStep 8: Clean-up turnlock with damp paper towel.

Use the damp paper towel you have at the ready to clean-up any glue that got squeezed out and then polish the exposed metal front and back of the lock until shiny and free of glue.

Looks-greatStep 9: Lock the lock and Press Prongs Through Bag.

Before you put the turnlock flap on the bag itself, lock the lock and then position the flap on the bag. Only at this point do I actually baste the flap itself in place on the bag.

Once the flap is basted in place and the flap itself allows to fall to its resting place on the front of the bag (with all parts of the turnlock on the flap–that is, the lock, too), press the prongs of the turnlock “lock” into the bag (so that the prongs are now on the inside of the bag) where you want the lock to sit.

Next, unlock the lock and, holding just the lock itself, press the lock prongs the rest of the way through the bag front. Put the little metal sleeve on the prongs and press the prongs toward the center to secure.

With the lock still unlocked, now you can rivet or sew the turnlock flap in place permanently.

This part of the process is finished!

Still have questions? Ask them in the comments section below and I will answer either in the comments or another blog posting.

Hearts on My Sleeve: Seasonal Favorite Now in Crochet!

Hearts-on-My-SleeveJust in time for American Heart Month and Valentine’s Day: Noni’s  . . . Heart on My Sleeve Bag is available in knit from Noni and a Noni version of the bag is now available in the popular book edited by Laura Zander of Jimmy Beans:  Crochet Red

CrochetRed_BookCover_HiRes For the crochet version of this design, I teamed up with Janet Brani to translate the knitted bag into crochet. I love the resulting tiny purse, perfect for Valentines Day, for any fancy party, or (picture this) in white or in an ensemble of brights for a Bride and Bridesmaids.

CrochetRed_BeadedFeltedBag_NoraBellows_JanetBrani_HiResIn next week’s Noni Q&A, I will be exploring how to do the hand-beading and make beautiful beaded hearts or other images (almost like applique) on felt, but get your bag started now and you’ll be ready to follow along with my step-by-step tutorial in next Friday’s blog. You can purchase Crochet Red for the crochet bag or buy the pdf for the knit version of the pattern by clicking here. Call me at the studio or write to me to order your hardware kit and yarn.

For those who are interested in the ways this sweet little bag can be used for occasions other than St. Valentine’s Day, consider this lovely version of the bag:

Hearts-on-My-Sleeve-with-FlowersHere, I used the Hearts on My Sleeve instructions as written, but I also made cherry blossoms and the cherry blossom leaves from Noni Flowers.

Noni-Flowers-Book-cover-finalSpecifically, I used the flower instructions on page 43 and leaf instructions found on page 152 with the information about the project Cherry Blossom Pauper’s Purse.

Paupers-Purse2

Paupers-PurseAs you can see, the Pauper’s Purse was not a felted bag but worked in Tilli Tomas Plie and Beaded Plie. Nevertheless, the instructions for the knitted leaves and flowers need no adjustment for the wool/felted versions. After the blossoms and leaves are felted and beaded, the results are delicate and romantic in true-to-life shades. They would be dramatic and daring if the flowers were red and the leaves black. Subdued if worked all in shades of grey and white and black.

Check back on Jan 31 for more in the Noni Q&A and share your own versions of this bag on the Noni Designs Facebook page and/or ideas here in the comments.

Studio Transformation (still in process) Update in Talking Across the Pond . .

Hi Nora,

Don’t worry about being quiet. Sometimes life gets in the way of things and takes on a path of its own making. New bags and an expansion to your workshop are both huge undertakings. We’re merely building a shed at the bottom of the garden and thats taking far far more time and energy than I’d anticipated. Just as I think we’re almost done something else crops up and the finish line moves that little bit further away. I can see progress every day whether its the re-appearance of another bit of floor or a bootload more junk to the tip.

I’ve listed loads of the unwanted and outgrown stuff on E-bay so I won’t feel quite as bad about splurging at AndyFest which has the potential to be an awesome knittery day out as well as raising money for a a local hospital which specialises in the treatment of brain tumours. Rather looking forward to this and am hoping to get a chance to try a few spinning wheels out whilst I’m there. The girls are more excited about the hog roast and giant picnic and D is glad hes working because there are only so many hen wragedd a ffyn (old women with pointy sticks) in once place that he can cope with without the constant clickity clack driving him round the bend.

We’ve finally collected the last of D’s toys from the store and bunged it in the shed. It sounds simple enough but had the added complication of  weighing almost 200kg. This meant borrowing a trailer, loading it on a fork lift, craning it out when we got home and then the arduous task of loading it onto a trolley and winching it slowly down the steps to the shed before finally craning it into position. Means the rest of the stuff can now be positioned round it and work surfaces can go in along with all the storage units. Hoping to move the last of the boxes from the dining room and the family room and the breakfast room (my soon to be craft room) in the very near future.

Like Soma (glad he liked his hat), the girls stayed up incredibly late to watch the Olympic Opening Ceremony and have stayed up late to watch the games most nights since. The events so far have been spectacular. Just watched Michael Phelps win his 19th Olympic medal. What a guy! So modest and good humoured too.

The school holidays seem to be whooshing by in a whirlwind of activities. The girls spent a day at the local sports centre trying out waterpolo and a few other team sports. B. is currently camping at her riding school and will be there for another few days. In the rain. Rather glad she over-packed. I suspect she’ll need rather more dry changes of clothes than were on her packing list.

F. is spending the week at football school which she was quite excited about but after two days its dawned on her that they do nothing but play football and talk about football and footballers. It’s not something she’ll be in a hurry to repeat next year. She likes a little more variety in her day. Still her football has improved quite noticeably, as has her ability to boss her team mates around.

Other highlights of the week included the retrieval of a fledgling sparrow from the cat, much to his disgust, and a manic week at work where I had a visit from the bouncy castle inspector who might have the worlds greatest ever job title but doesn’t actually get paid to bounce up and down on bouncy castles all day long. I have school to myself the rest of the time which means I get loads done but tend to loose track of time in the process. Some days its because I get a bit too engrossed in whatever I’m painting and forget about lunch until my tummy growls, other days its because I realize I’ve managed to read 130 pages of a novel in what should have been a 30 minute lunch break.

Looking forward to seeing the new bags and reading whatever you choose to blog about as and when you choose to blog. Its always interesting to read about other peoples lives, especially when they’re very different to my own. I doubt you ever find yourself having to retrieve a banana from a toilet U-bend for the third day in a row thanks to some delightful child deciding to flush his break-time fruit rather than eat it.

Amanda

 

Dear Amanda,

No, indeed, I have not had the banana adventures you describe! But I have to say they made me laugh out loud when I read those lines! There is always something you don’t expect, isn’t there?

I’ve been spending my time working on the studio. If I’m not filling an order for the new bags, I’m arranging something, adding to the recycle pile, working on labeling and organization, thinking about how I want the final retail/gallery space to look. It is still going to take some time to get things where I want them, but the whole plan is coming together.

Last Saturday, my husband, Soma, and I spent the day at the studio. Soma did a few jobs for me (he’s a great purse chain inspector) and was quite lovely (most of the time) about finding activities with which to occupy himself. He had fun playing with a pile of magnets and purse chains with lobster claws that were not attached correctly.

Here is a picture of the new shipping space in its “before” state:

The new shipping space has a bit of an L shape, so I am taking this photograph from the hallway door . . . I had a doorway cut from my office space into the shipping room, so each room (retail/gallery, office/creative, and shipping/receiving) now have their own spaces.

Here is a picture of my office in a very chaotic state. Since I have had this studio, the office has always had to share space with something else. In the beginning, it shared space with shipping, but as my hardware offerings have increased, the shipping area has needed more space. I moved office and shipping into the gallery and the gallery into the red room. . . but that didn’t work for long because I didn’t like being out of the red room for creative work.

I moved my office back into the red room, but was so busy that things never got organized (as you can see).

Here are before pictures of the shipping wall and the “gallery/workshop table” while I was putting W and 6-8-10 kits together. Talk about chaos!  Yikes. It always gets worse before it gets better.

So, after two weeks of almost constant work. . . you know how it is with the work on the shed! You inspired me not simply to move piles but to go through each pile and make decisions about all the things that have been hanging around. I have a few more piles to go through, but for the most part, I’ve done some sending this and that hither and thither, yarn to charities, pitching paper and useless things. My spaces are more stream-lined, clean, refined. Everything I could label is labeled.

Here is my new beautiful office space–my dream of what I’ve always wanted my office to be like. Of course I spend more time in here, can sit and have a fabulous espresso (really! If you every happen to come over here and drop by the studio, I’ll make you one so delicious and chocolatey).

And part of the new shipping space . . . after much thought and planning.

So, this is what I’ve been up to lately. This and getting Soma ready for this first day of First Grade.  I’ve been watching the last lotus bud unfurl, watching the ruby throated hummingbirds battle as they fatten up for their journey down to Central America. Soma and I had a cucumber stand with our last big harvest of cucumbers for the season. We had nine to sell and sold out in 20 minutes. The best thing was the repeat business from last year. Our once-a-year stand has a reputation!  I got to explain to Soma how important it is to develop a good reputation–worth it’s weight in gold.

This weekend I travel to California to teach a couple of workshops–one an Art of Knitting Noni Flowers at Nine Rubies. The other workshop is in Auburn California in a shop called Auburn Needleworks. There I’m teaching a bag finishing workshop followed by an introduction to flower knitting. I’m not only looking forward to the workshops themselves but also the long flights and some uninterrupted knitting time.

More soon about the studio and other adventures!

I’m keen to hear (and see) your update!

N