Knit Inspiration from Tea Cups

Primary colored knitting swatch
Standard

Because I need a bit of inspiration now and again and I know many of you that follow me (knitters, crocheters, designers, and general makers) also like a bit of inspiration, I thought I’d start to post regularly about what’s inspiring me at the moment.

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen the start of a new swatch for a new design I’m conjuring up (above).

This design was inspired by a cup that my friend Carly painted at one of those paint-your-own-pottery.

Carly Williams Tea Cup

Carly’s Anthro-Inspired Teacup

She was inspired by this Anthropologie teacup:

Anthropologie Tea Cup

Such a cute teacup!

 

For some reason, the design of the teacup stuck in my head and last week I started charting out what I remembered it to look like in my head. After finding a picture of the teacup, I realized what I remembered was nothing like the teacup except for the primary colors.

It got me wondering what other teacup designs might make for cute colorwork patterns… and I put together this Pinterest board! I hope you find something that inspires your next project!

2015 Year-in-Review

Standard

If I had to sum up 2015 for me with one word, it would be freedom.

I made a lot of goals for 2015 at the beginning of the year. I wanted to:

  1. travel as much as possible
  2. illustrate a children’s book
  3. read more
  4. write songs
  5. do yoga every day
  6. have better posture
  7. successfully grow some mushrooms
  8. become a knitwear designer

I did three of those things. Almost did most of them.

My intentions for 2015 year were vague: be more compassionate and bring happiness into the world.

I’m pretty sure I was successful in doing those things.

Having quit my full-time job in December 2014, I had a lot of free time last year and I spent a lot of time reflecting on my goals and intentions. Definitely a ‘first-world-problem’, but quitting my job was also the shedding of an identity. I could no longer introduce myself as, “Mandy, a web designer.” I was free from a job title but this left me feeling that I needed to define myself.

IMG_4502

How do I want to feel? (These came from reading The Desire Map)

I have no clue how many self-help books I read last year trying to find my new purpose but my favorites were:

  • The Renaissance Soul (basically how to split up your time between multiple hobbies/callings so you don’t have to drop everything to work towards one goal)
  • The Desire Map (figure out how you want to feel rather than what you want to do)
  • The Crossroads of Should and Must (for makers/creatives, how to stop following what you think you should do and do what calls you)

My walls are covered in goals and intentions to remind me of what I’m hoping to move towards. My time was so open and free, I wanted to make sure it counted and that I didn’t forget what I really wanted to accomplish and feel.

Travel

My main goal for the year was to travel and travel we did! We fell in love with Oregon and are making plans to move there in the next few years. We worked on a farm in West Virginia, visited my mom in Pittsburgh and took a road trip down the Blue Ridge Parkway. Right before John started school, we took a trip to Colorado to visit my sister and headed to Alaska from there. Here’s a smattering of photos from our trips last year but if you want to see and read more about them, head over to our blog, Off to Earth.

I thought working on the farm would dissuade me and my husband from this crazy dream I developed a couple of years ago to start my own alpaca farm. I thought it would be way too hard and I would be over it in a day or two. And it was really hard but I loved it. I wanted to stay forever, waking up with the sun, working in the fields and with the animals until I was so hungry I couldn’t stand it, eating lunch and working again until I was so tired I could fall asleep in my dinner.

I tried here and there to illustrate the children’s book John had written, but again, never got anywhere substantial. I don’t know why my heart isn’t in it.

Alpaca after a shave

A photo posted by Mandy Bee (@mandybee) on

I took an online course to learn how to write a song, but never got anywhere.

I read about 15 more books last year than I had in the previous year. Goal met!

I did yoga a lot, but definitely not every day. Sometimes not even weekly. I’m still working on it. This goal goes hand-in-hand with better posture.

The mushrooms are going to have to be a 2016 goal. We’ve got the log plugged with shiitakes, ready to go!

Become a Knitwear Designer

The last goal somehow managed to happen. I struggled with it all year, not sure where to start, not sure how to come up with ideas and then actually knit them. Winging it when it came to knitting just wasn’t happening in my brain.

Then I saw a call for submissions for a collection that Kate from A Playful Day was curating for Knit Now magazine. At first I thought there was no way I could ever get into a magazine — I hadn’t even written one pattern yet! And I’d probably have to knit faster than I am able to meet a deadline. But then I learned that a submission is only a sketch, a swatch, and some written ideas. I could do that. And there’s no way they’d pick me anyway, right?

I submitted an idea. And I was actually commissioned!

I knit my sample like a mad man and shipped it off to the UK. It should be published in April, but must be kept a secret until then! It’s a small step, but one that really helped to boost my confidence.

Compassion

In between traveling, I started volunteering on a weekly basis at the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey and volunteering irregularly at other places when the opportunity arose. It’s been a great way to meet like-minded people and generate compassion.

Photo taken on Monday of Owen, the barred owl

A photo posted by Mandy Bee (@mandybee) on

I also decided to stop eating meat unless I knew it was humanely raised or wild-caught. I started paying more for eggs from pasture-raised chickens instead of saving a few bucks on eggs from chickens kept in tiny cages. The switch to eating meat (usually fish) only once per week or less was not difficult, though I thought it would be.

What’s in store for 2016

My main goal for this year is to work on designing knitting patterns. I created a map for the first 6 months of 2016 and would like to create and self-publish 6 knitting patterns.

In the gaps, I’ll still be teaching at Valencia, doing a bit of freelance web design (still my most lucrative source of income), volunteering, and coming up with a plan for moving to Oregon, including purchasing land for a farm.

As far as intentions: compassion, compassion, compassion. More meditation, more yoga, more gardening, more reading, always creating.

lalylala’s Whimsical Winter Amigurumi Pattern Set

Lalylala 4 Seasons Winter Amigurumi
Standard

When I saw this set of 4 Seasons Winter amigurumi patterns on Ravelry, I squeed with joy! lalylala designs very whimsical, unique amigurumi patterns that I adore and these are no exception. My favorite amigurumi of the set is Heinz the stag, but the pine cone and snowman are equally adorable.

As lalylala states in the description, these three winter-inspired toys would make delightful Christmas ornaments! I know there are many (many many many) haters out there who think those of us who start celebrating Christmas before Thanksgiving should be locked in a closet. I am one of those people that has been listening to Christmas music for the past few weeks and I think spending the holiday weekend crocheting up some of these little guys as ornaments would be the perfect after-Thanksgiving dinner treat. (Less calories, too!)

Something that draws my eye to these amigurumis beyond their cute little faces is the shine on cotton yarn. They are crocheted with Catania from Schachenmayr. I’ve never used this yarn but I’m definitely tempted to add it to my ridiculous stash now.

Check out lalylala’s blog for more patterns, whimsical illustrations, and other inspirations!

Slow Fashion

Standard

I’m a bit late in the game to start talking about slow fashion, but Karen Templar has been inspiring me with everything that she’s been posting this month.

Slow Fashion is a movement towards knowing where your clothes come from, how they are made, mending them when they rip or get old, and only having what you need. And maybe a little bit (or a lot) about actually loving everything in your wardrobe. ❤

This video showing a glimpse into the life of workers who turn discarded Western clothing back into thread/yarn caught my attention. While I do love that a group of people figured out how to recycle these clothes, the amount of waste is astounding.

If that video disturbed you in one way or another, maybe a little slow fashion is in your future. Zady has some ideas for reducing your clothing consumption to get you started:

The next time you’re about to buy something, ask yourself this: Where will this piece of clothing go after I no longer want it? At first, it may seem strange to think about the end point of your relationship with an item before you’ve even committed to buying it. But we have discovered that asking this simple question has totally changed the way we shop. Why? Because it turns out that what you can do with a piece of clothing when you no longer want it is a very good measure of whether it’s worth buying in the first place. – From Good Ridding

I am a definitely a serial donator and I’d love to say it’s solely because I am giving items consciously, hoping others will benefit from them. But if I’m honest with myself, I buy too many things and get bored with them just as quickly. And could I be bothered to fix a button? …Probably not.

My mouth also drops down to the floor when I see shoes that cost more than $60, or a shirt, pants, dress… whatever. But seriously, if an article of clothing is made well and with love, it probably didn’t cost only $60 for someone to make a living. The materials should come from somewhere that is conscious about their effect on the environment and they should pay their workers fair wages — and the same should go all the way up the chain to the final thread.

If you pay more for your clothes, you’ll think a lot harder about what you’re bringing home and how it fits into your wardrobe.

Researchers have found that the insula—the part of the brain that registers pain—plays a role in purchase decisions. Our brain weighs the pleasure of acquiring against the pain of paying. As clothing prices decline, that pain does too, making shopping easy entertainment, disconnecting it from our actual clothing needs.  – From The Case for Expensive Clothes

For Slow Fashion October (and beyond), I pledge to be more conscious of what I bring into my home and mend the clothes that need mending. I hope you’ll join me and all of the others taking part in Slow Fashion October.

Oh yeah, and even if you have an aversion to mending your clothes like I do, look how cute mended clothes can be!

Oh-my-gurumi Pierogi!

tcakes4u's little pierogi
Standard

And by “oh my gurumi”, I mean amigurumi. I came across this cute little amigurumi pierogi on the front page of Ravelry and had to stop what I was doing to share it with you all.

Tiffany (tcakes4u) used Deena White’s Little Empanada pattern to make a cute little pierogi!

My mom is from Pittsburgh, where they eat an excessive amount of pierogies and I’ve been eating an excessive amount of them since I was a kid. They’re definitely a comfort food for me and I have a bit of an obsession. Actually, I have an obsession with any dumplings (like these squee polymer clay dumplings). I should probably crochet a few pierogies instead of eating the actual thing!

 

Cross Stitch Cuteness!

Standard

I started cross stitching solely because of The Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery. They have THE CUTEST cross-stitch patterns I’ve ever seen, so I wanted to share them with you.

Cute Halloween cross stitch

Get ready for Halloween!

Now, I’ve yet to finish even one teeny project, but I’m really tempted to get one of their Halloween patterns or Autumn patterns.

The Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery Autumn Harvest Festival Cross stitch

Fall is (not) here!

I love the way Amanda and Ashleigh (owners of The Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery) style their cross stitch works over hand-dyed fabric. It really adds depth to the cross stitch.

Fibery Friends Cross stitch

Oh yeah, and how could you resist swapping your knitting needles for a tapestry needle to stitch this Fibery Friends sampler? I need to make a pillow covered in cross stitched alpacas right now! Bye!

Finished Shirtie! (FO)

Completed Kelso sweater
Standard

Wow – I thought I’d never finish knitting this hooded, short-sleeved sweater!

I started knitting the Kelso sweater in May, so it took almost 6 months to complete. Now that I say that out loud, I’m surprised I knit my first sweater in less than a year.

Knitted Kelso sweater

Yeah, I’m using a remote control. What of it?

Knitting this was pretty fun. The lace panel in the middle uses the SAME pattern repeat every row (knit or purl), so it’s very easy to remember.

There is some seaming to do, which I was dreading because everyone talks about how awful seaming is, but I actually found it to be a bit fun to watch the mattress stitch zip up the sides of the sweater. I also learned how to do the kitchener stitch for the top of the hood!

I do wish that I’d knit a smaller size. I chose the 46″ size based on my bust size, adding 4″ for ease and it’s a bit swimmy in here. After reading Knit to Flatter and Knit Wear Love by Amy Herzog (the sweater queen, IMO), I now know that I should knit sweaters based on my upper torso size, adding darts where needed to increase sizing where things are a bit bigger. That would have meant making a 38″ instead of 46″ sweater.

The hoodie helps a lot to make this sweater look cute at a bigger size. Without it, it might just look like a big, frumpy shirt.

Sweater

Does this sweater make my bookshelves look big?

My only gripe with this pattern is that it called for 8 balls of yarn and I only needed 5.25 of them to finish the sweater at the size I chose. Maybe I knit weird but I swear I met gauge!

On to the yarn. I knit this using Knit Pick’s Palette. I absolutely LOVE the colors available in this yarn base. It’s 100% wool and 100% stinky when wet. Luckily the smell goes away after a bit, otherwise this sweater would be in the trash. I didn’t particularly love or hate knitting with the yarn, but it is a very nice match to this pattern.

Woohoo! Now I can cast on something else! Or perhaps I should finish that shawl… or sock.

Hooded shirt/sweater

Girl, look at that hoodie. I work out!

Cozy Knits & Crochet

Cozy Knits and Crochet Patterns
Standard

Here I sit, in my home in central Florida with the A/C blasting. It’s 88°F outside but I’m pretending there is a slight chill to the air. Drinking a pumpkin spice latte and scrolling through my Instagram feed, I see photo after photo celebrating the beginning of a new season—my favorite season—Autumn.

Autumn doesn’t seem to show up here until mid-November most years, so it is with much jealousy I have put together this set of cozy knitting and (one, sorry hookers) crochet patterns. They remind me of fireplaces, warm cups of hot cocoa, and colorful fallen leaves.

To those of you living a bit farther away from the equator than me, enjoy your chunky, cowled, and cabled sweaters! Put on those bulky, scrunchy socks and a matching pair of wrist  warmers, curl up in your coziest chair and get knitting (or hooking)!

A Blanket for Seriously Cold People

A Blanket for Seriously Cold People by Sylvia Bo Bilvia

Not sure you could get any cozier, wrapped in this chunky, ribbed blanket designed by Sylvia Bo Bilvia.

Perfect Autumn Sweaters

Top Left: Lanvad by Justyna Lorkowska Top Middle: Eddy by Amy Herzog Top Right: Cardiff Coat by Jennifer Wood Bottom Left: Coffee tunic by Mira Saarentaus Bottom Middle: Lila by Carrie Bostick Hoge Bottom Right: Frontiersman by Martin Storey

Cozy Accessories

Top Left: Hooded Cowl with Buttons by Melissa Grice (Crochet) Top Left Middle: Woodland Hoodlet by Tiny Owl Knits Top Left Bottom: Cosy gloves by Anna NikipirowiczTop Right: Cup of Cocoa Slouch Socks by Heather Walpole Bottom Left: Cosy Scarf by Marie Wallin Bottom Right: Slouchy Socks by Gwen Bortner

If you want to get even cozier, I have created the Get Cozy! bundle on Ravelry and will continue to add cozy, comfy knits and crochet projects to it.

Favorite the Get Cozy! bundle on Ravelry and maybe new patterns will pop up in your Pattern Highlights (is that how Ravelry works?).

Brooklyn Tweed’s Fall 2015 Lookbook

Willamette Scarf from the Brooklyn Tweed Lookbook
Standard

Brooklyn Tweed released their gorgeous Fall 2015 Lookbook today and it’s focused around one of my favorite things: The Pacific Northwest! Since they’ve moved their offices to Portland, I guess they’re feeling a bit inspired. I know the feeling.

The lookbook is beautiful and makes me want to pack up my needles and knit in Oregon somewhere.

Brooklyn Tweed's Quarry in Lazulite colorway

Brooklyn Tweed’s Quarry in Lazulite colorway

They have also released a new line of yarn: Quarry – a beautiful, bulky yarn that comes in the loveliest, earthy colorways! I’m a sucker for roving-style yarn and this one is sourced from Targhee-Columbia sheep in Wyoming, dyed in Philadelphia and spun in New Hampshire, keeping the process all in the US. It will definitely have a spot on my holiday wishlist!

30MinKnits Challenge

#30MinKnits Challenge
Standard

I’m challenging you all to knit for 30 minutes-a-day for 30 days!

Wait, why…?

I think many of us knitters, fast or slow, have gone through patches of knit-neglect. Our UFOs (unfinished objects) start piling up in a corner. We look back at the past few weeks and realize we haven’t knit at all or have only knit a couple of times and, with regret, we exclaim,

“If only I’d just knit for a few minutes every day, I’d be done with that project already!”

I want to gift myself with 30 minutes a day of knitting so I can…

  • Start and finish that second sock
  • Finish that beautiful red shawl I’ll never wear
  • Finish the shirtie I really want to wear
  • Finish the annual temperature scarf I started… in 2013

And I want you to gift 30 minutes to yourself as well! If you have unfinished knits or haven’t picked up your needles for a while, join me!

How the heck am I going to find 30 minutes?

  • If you’re a morning person, set your alarm for 30 minutes earlier than usual for 30 days, grab your cup of coffee (or tea!), settle in somewhere comfy and knit.
  • Knit between bites during lunch!
  • Knit at stoplights on your way to work. (Okay, that might be dangerous…)
  • Watching TV? Multitask and knit!
  • When you find yourself mindlessly surfing Facebook, Reddit, Ravelry, or anything else on the internet, put down your phone and pick up your needles.
  • Be mindful of your time – are you doing something you’ll regret not having done tomorrow? If not, knit!
  • Knit on the toilet…? (We’re heading into creepy territory.)
  • Knit in bed, right before you go to sleep because you almost forgot you were doing the 30MinKnits challenge!

Alright, I’m in. What are the rules?

Just a few… and I’m not going to be that picky. This challenge is a gift to you — you, the knitter, who wants to finish that UFO over there (and there, and there). Do what you can, when you can, but be nice to yourself and give yourself the time to do what you really want to do!

  • Work on whatever project you’d like for at least 30 minutes per day for 30 days in a row. That’s 30 minutes of actual knitting time, not Ravelry browsing or stash fondling to figure out what you want to knit.
  • When you want to, share your progress with everyone using the #30MinKnits hashtag on Instagram (or wherever you’d like).
  • Knit happy!

I’ll be starting this challenge on September 1st and I hope you’ll join me.