Monday, December 15, 2008

Hats at Christmas time

Wow, it's so close to Christmas now! I'm sorting out what to give, what I still have to make, and what to put on Etsy. I just posted a bunch of new hats. Hats are easy and quick to make and good gifts. I started my Etsy adventure with hats in February of 2007 and have sold one on Etsy - though my two hoods did sell. At the EtsyDallas Jingle Bash in November I sold out of my hats except one! I think it helped that I was one of the few vendors with hats. Anyway, I'm going to give it a shot on Etsy again. If I can sell almost a dozen hats in one day maybe it's worth trying again.

P.S. The orange leaf hat featured above sold in about 3 hours. I guess it's a hit! I'll have to play with that form again.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Jingled Out

The EtsyDallas Jinglebash was this last Saturday and it was so much fun! I brought tons of new stuff -- lots of scarves and shrugs and capelets and hats... and a few Christmas decorations. I made a Christmas garland and a few sets of ornaments.
I loved the venue and the crowd was really supportive. I definitely exceeded my goal for this show. I was a bit sad to see some of the pieces go, but it was a really exciting day.
We've already set the date for the next EtsyDallas show: May 16 at Southside on Lamar. I should have plenty of time to come up with new things by then. 

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Jingle all the way!

I'm participating in the Jingle Bash at Sons of Hermann Hall on November 22, presented by Etsy Dallas! I've been working on new items for the show -- felted ruffled scarves, neck warmers, and lariat style scarves! It should be great.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

"Dress Sexy at My Funeral" Treasury

This might be one of my favorite Treasuries that I've been in so far! How funny and stylish and dark. I'm so glad she found my Victorian Flutter Shawl to include. It's a great fit! It is very dramatic and serious, but in a romantic fantasy kind of way. I love all the ruffles she included.


It is not surprising that I did not post anything for the month of September. Opening the new gallery has been completely consuming! What is shocking is that I managed to complete this beautiful new shrug. It sold within a few hours. It is one of my favorite things that I've made this year. It is so delicate and detailed with a really graceful flow. There is tie at the front or it can be left open. I love the colors and how they work together, but most of all I loved the challenge of figuring out how to make it work - how to shape the garment, when to increase, to decrease, and how to finish off.

I don't like to repeat myself and this was truly a one of a kind piece, but I'd like to play with this form again. I see more shrugs in my future.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Ready, set, go! Dara Market Bag

Apparently, I'm obsessed with my market bags. I can't seem to stop. This version has a few changes -- the body is longer making the curve more pronounced and the sides shorter. It still has plenty of room, but it's distributed differently. The handle isn't wrapped at the shoulder and the joint where the strap ends meet is permanently fixed at one point so the entire strap doesn't slide through like in the others. There are no flowers on this one either. These are really minor changes, I think. The big change is the yarn. This is 100% cotton. I found the yarn at times stiff and difficult to work with and prone to unraveling. Argh. That may explain the no-frills approach. I have lots of confidence in the strength of this yarn. It's tough.

These colors are a departure for me too. Very bright and summery. Almost neon! I made it for the EtsyFAST August challenge - The Summer Olympics. I love watching the swim events and this is a great bag for taking to the pool. I also like how the shape and texture is similar to the "Nest" stadium in Beijing. I struggled for a name and finally decided to name it after Dara Torres, four time Olympian and the first American to swim in four Olympic games!

Monday, July 21, 2008

To the Library and Market Bag and Back Again!

I finished the second Library-Market bag last night. The strap takes longer than the bag to make! I made the second strap even tougher and more reinforced. It hardly stretches at all. In the photo I stuffed the bag with my yarn. It's huge! I can't believe how much the bag stretches.

Below you can see just part of my doornob'd bag collection. The mirror doubles it. You can't have too many, right? Have I mentioned I'm partial to green, orange, and blue?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

To the Library and Market Bag

I'm a huge fan of market bags and (apparently given the number I've now got) a collector of tote bags. I've developed a real hate for plastic bags and I find that carrying a tote bag with a market bag stashed inside seems to meet most of needs as I run around town. That said, most of the market bags I see are really plain. Very functional and wonderful, but a bit boring. The number one most important thing about a bag like this is it's functionality. It has to be up to hard everyday use.

Taking this into account, I considered this my design challenge! How to make a market and book bag that would look unique and follow with my Modest Ambition aesthetic while being really tough. I choose to start with acrylic yarn because it has lots of body and is very starchy - and I have a surplus. I crocheted with two strands at a time, crocheting through, then wrapping around, each time I connected. The shape is a long rectangle with the straps woven through the long sides the 1/3 of the short side before connecting them together. At that joint, the yarns are tied together before being crocheted over then wrapped in a long chain. I experimented with the strap quite a bit before coming to a satisfactory solution. After wrapping the strap I stitched back through it with yarn to make it extra secure. It's very cushy. 

I really enjoyed making this bag and I've started a second one with the same colors, but different orders with the strips.  

Here's what's in the bag in the photos and what I'm currently reading: Richard Florida's Who's Your City, Naomi Novik's Victory of Eagles (just finished it), Peter Brinckerhoff's Mission-Based Marketing (reading for work), and Christopher Paolini's Eldest (just borrowed it from my sister).

Monday, July 14, 2008

Coral Reefs

Todd and I went to the Dallas World Aquarium Saturday. After much fidgeting with my three year old camera I came away with these images and many more. I am fascinated by the shapes, colors, and textures like these found in nature. They are so similar to what I have created in own crochet and what was presented in the IFF's Hyperbolic Crocheted Coral Reef project.

They are so beautiful and intricate and fragile and just gorgeous. I still can't believe how great my photos came out! I definitely have more ideas for crochet projects. 

Of course the point of the IFF's Hyperbolic Crocheted Coral Reef is to draw on community activism (the crochet social networks that make the reefs) and their public exhibitions to call awareness to the plight of the real coral reefs.  

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Buying, not Selling, Today

I just bought a really adorable new necklace from yaelfran on Etsy and realized I'm quite the world shopper. I have now purchased items on Etsy from Buenos Aires, Gloucestershire, Finland, New Zealand, Canada, North and South Carolina, California, and here at home in Dallas. Trust me, I would buy so much more if I could! 

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Baroque Golden Flutter Shawl

Whew, talk about drama. This piece took me from here to there and back. I was frustrated with it almost as much as I was delighted by it. After completing the Austen Flutter Shawl I decided that there was so much with this format that I hadn't tried. The Austen Shawl alternates with big and little holes, meaning more or fewer stitches before attaching. What if I didn't do a nice gradual progression, but instead dramatically changed the stitch ratios suddenly! What if it got really tiny and very frequent? There are parts of this shawl that appear to be solid, but are actually very small stitch counts of 1 and 3. Then, for the drama, it gathers up tight, then releases with counts of 7 and 9 and back down again at the very bottom with counts of 3. Maybe I'm the only one that will know what I'm talking about here... I created a problem. I tried to make the shawl defy gravity and it slumped. It sagged. I had to fix it.

Here, you can see what I did. I gathered the point of greatest contrast - where that tiny tight point meets the big expansive stitch - and crocheted them together from the back. Okay, that's good. But it still looks like a lump from the front. So I stitched the front 1/5th of each side into place forming closed pockets. I crocheted over that 1/5 section so often I made it stiff with yarn, now making the piece more structured. Not slumpy. In fact that entire fold has become a ridge and gives the whole piece its backbone. 

So I call it Baroque because it is dramatic; it is bold in its attempt to defy or challenge nature's gravity, it is a decadent pale golden hue, it is delightfully soft to the touch, and it wraps the wearer in a kind of theatre in which you are center. My t-shirt and khakis don't do it justice.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Toot! Toot! That's my horn

Look! That's me on the front page of Etsy, in the green capelet on the bottom left. I can't take a complete page in my screenshot, so pardon the composite. I was in shock this morning when I pulled up Etsy and saw my item. For those of you not as familiar with Etsy, it's a big deal to be on the front page! Tons of exposure. They even have  button for you to add to your item page that brags about being featured on the front page. My item sold later in the afternoon so I didn't have a chance to add that, but I would have. 
Which brings me to my other toot, toot moment today -- a sale! A nice big one. Feels good. And, I passed a milestone with my Etsy hearts; I'm over 200 now. That means over 200 other people have hearted my shop. All in all, a good day. So pardon me for tooting my own horn. :)

UPDATE: More to brag about... EtsyDallas selected ModestAmbition for a Member Spotlight profile. I don't know what to say! 
Also, you can see my contribution to the July Jewelry Sampler at The Sampler here, if you scroll down a bit.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Light Green Shrug - Design Notes

I had the idea for the this shawl for a while, but when it came to actually making it I changed stitches as I went. I really liked how it turned out. My second attempt at this style -- a giant flat circle with undulating edges -- was the pink frothy circle wrap/capelet. This light green piece was more finished; I stitched the parts together to make the arm holes, but I made the ribbon removable.  
The yarn is surprisingly soft and fuzzy. It feels a bit like wearing a tiny afghan. I photographed this shawl several times and changed my Etsy shop posting accordingly. I had lots of traffic, hearts, and treasuries for this item -- which I was very happy about! It finally sold at the EtsyDallas Beer-B-Q. I learned so much in making, photographing, and promoting this item. I still love the first photo at top. And, I should probably make something else like this soon. We'll see. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

On Ambition

I've been meaning to write something about my shop name. I'm so used to it now I hardly even notice the words anymore, funny how that happens. But in 2007 when I was dipping my toe into the Etsy waters for the first time I spent a lot time trying to find a name that would work for me. I hadn't decided "what" I was going to sell on Etsy and my interests are varied. I'd spent years perfecting papermaking and collage techniques and origami folds (even made up some new ones). The shop has settled into crochet, mostly because that's what I was producing the most of for Christmas time and post Christmas 2007 I didn't want to stop. I wanted to make more and try more things. 

But back to ambition, in art school I, like every other painter, was told that I needed to work big. Size is a test of the integrity and strength of your idea, your composition, your technique, etc. You can fudge things on a small scale that you can't get away with on a 6 foot canvas. Mistakes can't hide. You must be confident in order to work on a large scale. The painting becomes the environment and you interact with it differently, and so on. I love large paintings and I've made a few that I truly like, but in the end, as with any one-size-fits-all piece of advice, I started to pull away from it. In retrospect, telling student painters to work big seems like an exercise. Or perhaps not, we say the same thing to artists at the gallery sometimes. Anyway, when I graduated with my undergraduate painting and drawing degree I immediately started working small. Very small.

It was partly as a reaction against my painting professor and an acknowledgment of my new freedom, but it was strongly informed by what I was reading in feminist theory. Big was bold, confident, the only way to go -- big was masculine. I come from a long tradition of crafters with crochet, knitting, needlepoint, and sewing projects tucked away to be pulled out at any moment and worked on until the next chore, child, meal, or task came up. These are small modest projects beautifully worked, flexible enough to be started or stopped at any point. Rather than the isolated artist in the studio, these pieces were made within the presence of a community - at the kitchen table, on the sofa, sitting around in the backyard. I started playing with interchangeable parts and small scale projects, mostly paper collages and small charcoal drawings bound into artists books. I like the idea of discrete units that seem negligible until they are combined and added together they are stronger. Maybe it's the metaphor that I like and the resemblance to quilts. Like any piecemeal project, quilts can seem modest in pieces, but they are ambitious. Even a scrap of a quilt means, or is evidence of a desire, to be an entire quilt - quite a project! 

I returned to these ideas about craft and women's work when I was doing my thesis and read so much more. This entry isn't footnoted and I don't want to get it wrong, so forgive the generalizations - maybe I'll put up a reading list later. I think I started working small after college because I found some personal identification with that kind of work. I've seen a lot of post school artists do so because they are forced by the constraints of the kitchen table or bedroom floor, but I still had my studio at that point. After I lost my studio, well, that's another post. After a few years I stopped making art and stopped calling myself an artist. I don't identify with it now and I'm okay with that.

In 2004/5 when I came back to crochet full force I started making things that were less than functional, then completely baroque and fantastic and we started taking photographs of them. In 2006 my photos were in a faculty show in Oklahoma and in 2007 one of the crocheted pieces was in a juried art show. I have no aspirations for this work as art. I enjoy making it and I'm thrilled when people are curious about them, but my ambitions have changed. Tempered by my experiences working at museums and galleries, I don't want to be on that side of it. I want the work to be complex and imaginative and fantastical and away from this world.

Which brings me back to ModestAmbition, you won't find any of my "less than functional" crochet on Etsy. Not at this time. I want my Etsy site to stay on the commercial functional side. My "modest ambition" is to figure out how to make something that might sell and thus allow me to make an enhanced future, therefore using the open marketplace with creative and crafty muscle to supplement my lifestyle, one piece at a time. The ambition is big, but the means are modest.

The photographs in this post where taken by Todd at White Rock Lake and are of a piece that I gave him for his birthday that year, 2005.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tribute to frothiness

I'm excited that I sold this piece to a friend in May, but I miss it! I miss having the pictures up on my Etsy site. I miss the frivolousness and frothiness of this piece. It says that I have a great sense of humor and an imagination and nothing is too silly to not be taken seriously. And, it's incredibly versatile. In the picture below I've added three matching crocheted flower pins.

It is, in fact, just a large circle folded and tied into different shapes: a capelet, a shrug, a shawl, a scarf...

... a bundle of pink goo. Perfection in pink. I finished that skein finally with the Lula pillowcase flowers. It served me well. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Jane Austen Lit-Wear

I love participating in the EtsyFAST monthly challenges, but I thought I was going to sit this month's out. I had zero ideas about "Heros" as a challenge. I think it's a great idea - bold and creative, definitely a challenge. I've been finishing this shawl/capelet for the last week and finally it dawned on me that a capelet is just a small cape and heros wear capes... so, why not? Add to that a comment from a friend/customer referring to her shrug/capelet as a queen's cape, and you've got hero ready-to-wear. Or, more like Jane Austen heroine-wear. Which is where I've decided to tie in my new fluttery capelet. Think of it as lit-wear. I couldn't decide on just one of Austen's characters, so I'm going for her body of work (Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and more). Here I am trying out some decidedly dramatic poses!

Here I am rebuking suitors, pondering my future, alternately making my own way then pining, all while navigating difficult social circumstances, expectations, and family loyalties.
This is the most challenging piece of this type that I've attempted. The pattern was designed on the fly and kept me on my toes because of my decision to cluster -- alternating stitch counts in order to create groupings for better hang and fluttering. The top, bottom, and ends are reinforced with additional stitches for better structure. The tie is separate and loops through anywhere on the shawl and is, of course, a spiral for more drama! I started a champagne version that is going to make this one look simple - more draping, puffing, and fluttering, but smaller in scale, so far.

From the EtsyFAST message board someone posted a fabulous link to a quiz that determines "Which Austen Heroine Are You?". It's great! I'm Elinor Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility - which makes sense, right?

Monday, June 9, 2008

Fun with Buttons and Ribbon

Recently I completed a large order for my button and crochet bookmarks. I tried not to repeat my color combinations and came up with this cacophony of colors--buttons, threads, and ribbons all fighting for attention! Each is crocheted with two strands of DMC embroidery thread and features a button or two on each side. 

This is what 50 of them look like together! Fun to play with. I couldn't resist arranging them different ways for some quick photos before I sent them out.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Lula Pillowcase - Confronting Tacky in Crochet

I finally finished my EtsyFAST May challenge - flowers - and posted it today, the Lula Pillowcase. Since I already make several items that qualify as flowers (see my crochet pins, Pink Icing Flower pins, Grayscale flowers pins, etc.), I wanted to make something really special. My grandmother loved pink roses and bright colors. Her house was full of bright pinks and greens and she liked to wear bold floral patterns. She was a very talented home sewer and very creative. 

Crochet always has the potential of being tacky; not slightly tacky or kinda tacky, but really kitschy tacky awful wonderful. Rather than skirt around the issue with this project, I wanted to really go for it and make it as full and loud and textured as possible. I guess I still have some natural restraint. There are no tassels or fringe! It was an exhausting exercise and took over a month to complete, but the finished product makes me smile and reminds me of the feeling of being at my grandma's.

Here's the pillowcase in progress. Arranging them was fun; sewing them on was a total pain. Below you can see the pillowcase peaking out from my booth-in-a-bag, see my post on Beer-B-Q Success! for more images of the pillow in action (on a table).

Monday, May 19, 2008

Beer-B-Q Success!

The Etsydallas Beer-B-Q was yesterday. It was a blast! Over twenty Etsydallasites gathered for a homemade trunk show complete with free food, music, raffles, and goody bags. We were stationed from the front yard to dining room to the garage. Here you can see Jen, of HipHazel, and I sitting in our booth space. Jen and I are both sporting my crocheted button pins and I'm finishing up a shawl/wrap/capelet that promptly was tagged and put on the rack with the others.

Here's Jen with Hazel, the original Hip Hazel, and below another image of our booth. We thought the wall color was great with our color schemes.

Regina of LittleCookie was our dining room neighbor. Her Kanzashi flowers are amazing. She hand dyes silk and folds them into traditional hair ornaments originally meant for geisha. Her work is exquisite and beautifully presented. 

We thought we were lucky to be inside, though I hear it wasn't too bad in the shade with a breeze. It was great how many friends stopped by and hung out, eating free food, listening to the band, or just chatting. Customer traffic was good and sales exceeded my very low expectations! So, it was all good and very fun and I was exhausted at the end of another very full day.