Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2010, Year of the Maker?

I just posted my first contribution to the Etsy Dallas blog. I made the illustration above and scanned it for the article, but here's a snapshot of it. I had way too much fun making this. I see more of this in my future.

When I was a kid I had a notebook just for describing new inventions, a binder with notes, illustrations, and diagrams/floorplans for the stories I was writing, a folder for poetry, sketch pads for drawings and paintings, and collections of things for craft projects and sculptures. I didn't think of myself as an artist or a crafter and certainly not an artisan. I considered myself a "maker." It was the word I was most comfortable with and best described how I saw myself. My output was limitless and I was very prolific. I always had multiple projects going and I was constantly trying out new techniques.

Since then, I've gone to art school, art history grad school, worked in museums, galleries, universities, and been a part of a very creative community. With my professional career though, I stepped out of the role of "maker" and became a culture producer - a terribly clinical-sounding way of describing someone who works in the arts, but isn't the artist.

Right now, though, I feel more like a "maker" than I have in a very long time. Don't misunderstand, I NEVER stopped making things. I crocheted, collaged, drew, photographed, etc. I can't not make things (double negative for emphasis). But, that part of myself was pushed aside as I stopped identifying myself as an artist after art school and took up the label amateur crafter and DIY'er. I am in a transitional place, between jobs and at the crossroads of my career. I wonder, aloud even, if I'll ever work in the arts again. Maybe that was my last job in the profession I trained in? Who knows. I'll keep looking and keep trying - I'm not giving up. But, I feel free to try anything and everything: writing, drawing, making, inventing. Everything feels open and limitless.

Here's a quick sampling of a few of the projects I'm working on:
writing for Arts + Culture - pick it up at a local gallery or museum
producing and hosting Art This Week - a video podcast featuring interviews in local museums and galleries and art news
contributing to the Etsy Dallas blog as a guest writer, hopefully once a month
maintaining my Etsy shop, Modestambition
assisting and apprenticing to Hip Hazel Hoops, a very cool company that hand makes hula hoops and teaches lessons
blogging more frequently here

I'm working on a few more things too, but you get the idea. I'm trying to get a grasp on my plan for 2010. My new year's resolutions will be the next post.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Monkey boy

I don't make kid's items for my Etsy shop and my track record for making baby gifts is mixed. I'm terrible at guessing sizes so my things are usually too small. Now that I have three nephews and two nieces all under 3, I have more opportunities to try to get it right! Here's a preview of the Christmas presents for the 7 month old twin boys and the one-year old nephew on the other side of the family. Pretty cute, huh? I can't wait to see what these look like on!

Making the badges for the initials was a good warm up for the more complicated project ahead. The monkey applique is a new technique for me. I drew the monkey on my computer. Any real graphic designers would be horrified to know that I actually used MS Word to draw the ovals and circles. I saved it as a PDF then resized it when printing it. If I remembered how to use Adobe Illustrator, I'm sure I could have made a really cool vector graphic and done all kinds of neat things. As it is, I'm so proud that this worked at all! Once printed I cut out the main shape, taped it to my felt and cut that out. Then I trimmed the pattern down to the next interior shape, taped that to lighter brown felt and cut that out. I glued the two pieces of felt together and cut and glued the inside ear half moons. I stitched on the button eyes, white buttons with black buttons on top, and added the yarn smile and nose. I glued the whole thing on to the hat and then carefully did a running backstitch all the way around the monkey face. Finally, I added a stitch in the middle of the ear to tack down that tiny sliver of felt. Now all of the felt pieces are glued and sewn (the eyes, mouth and nose hold down the center felt piece).

These were fun projects. I'm looking forward to giving these as presents and maybe trying my hand at other animals in the future!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Etsy, a furry dog, and a crocheted collar

I just applied for the Second Etsy Community Council, which consists of a group of Etsians talking about Etsy - sounds fun! I'm sure everyone is applying, so I'm not holding my breath, but I thought I'd share my answer to the essay question: Why do you want to participate?

"I believe Etsy touches on some of the most important issues of our time, including, but not limited to, how we work, how we live, how we use objects to identify ourselves, and how we interact with each other in a marketplace and as a community as well as sustainability, DIY, entrepreneurship, craft/art, fair wages, globalism, and craft as heritage."

So there it is in a nutshell, well 250 words. Etsy touches on most of the questions that rattle around in my brain. It may sometimes just be a site for the cute and the uber-geeky, but it has the potential to be so much more.

By the way, my dog does not usually pose for my Etsy listing pictures. I don't make any dog items, but he was sitting still and I was sorely tempted to make him wear this piece. I actually just draped it on him for 30 seconds, snapped the pict when he looked at me and took it off. No dog cooties to worry about. Too bad we can't see his cute black button eyes! He loves this cold weather and is looking especially wooly.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Melancholia and Wool

I know I mentioned this hood at the bottom of my last post, but since then I went on the Etsy Forums and asked for a general critique that took this item in particular to task for being overly dark. I prefer to think of it as dramatic and moody, but they are right. It's dark. I reshot it and you can see the new sunnier, happier photos on Etsy. I tried to play up the whimsy of wearing a hood with a funny pointy top and big soft poms at the ends of long strings. But still, I'm attached to the original photos (the three photos shown in this post), which say more about how I'm feeling this winter.

Winter is a tough time of year; it's dark and cold. Like many before me, I use the long hours trapped indoors to challenge my hands and try to "make" my way out of the winter-blahs. I made a brightly colored hood to distract/shield/protect me. I turn inward, away from the light and become a darkened silhouette.

Winter is a very fertile time for my wooly imagination. I think of ways to stay warm, new patterns and designs, and develop hand and arm muscles that rival a marathoner. And, as excited as I am about the ultimate handmade gift exchange opportunity (Christmas), I am still slowed and pulled down by Winter's forces: an enveloping gray sky during the day revealing the dead leaves and grass and at night a chilled dark blankness. I appreciate the opportunity to slow down and reflect, even mourn for the year that has passed. I know I wasn't the only one to have a rough year, so I won't go into it. Like winter, this will pass. Who knows if 2010 will be any better, but at least we'll have the opportunity to make it our own.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


I have been very busy working towards the holiday shows this weekend. Not only have I been working to replenish my inventory after the Jinglebash, but I've been developing new things as well. I do become bored very quickly with repetition, so I like to try lots of new things, including these individual leaf pins. I designed the leaf sets originally for hats, but now I'm trying them out at pins. I wore the one I had completed to the Jinglebash and sold it off my dress. I also found a stash of vintage buttons at the thrift store that add more color than my usual brown buttons.

I still haven't had time to work on the fingerless gloves I've designed. I've made two pairs, but that hardly seems like enough to put out. We'll see... I'll be at the North Haven Gardens Holiday Arts and Crafts Fair, 10-5, Sunday, Dec. 6. My fall leaves and hats should fit right in.

My big accomplishment for the Thanksgiving holiday was the completion of a hood crocheted in wool and then felted. The felting was so tight I had to do a running stitch with needle and thread to create the loops to add the mohair trim. It has my first foray into intarsia with crochet - just a simple repeat of three stitches. I also changed colors on almost every line. I'd gone to the yarn store earlier that day and I was feeling the need for lots of color! The little balls at the end of the strings are made from hand-dyed and spun yarn (that I bought) that was un-spun to make perfect soft little puffs.

(See more on this item in my next post)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Jingled II

Wow, the second annual Jingle Bash on Saturday at Sons of Hermann Hall was amazing! I was so excited to see so many people and so much great stuff. Several vendors said it was their single busiest day ever! I had a great time meeting so many wonderful customers and talking about crochet and yarn - always fun for me! I'm so proud of the Etsy Dallas team and all of the talented vendors for making this such an outstanding event.

Now, it's time to get busy and start filling the custom orders from the show and to see how many hats I can make in two weeks. The North Haven Garden Holiday Arts and Crafts show is December 5-6. I'll be there Sunday, December 6, with a replenished stock of hats, scarves, and if I finish them in time, I'll be introducing gloves (the fingerless kind).

Monday, November 9, 2009

Twirling and Swirling

Last year I designed the cream and blue scarf and debuted (and sold) it at the Etsy Dallas Jingle Bash in November. This year, I am excited to have the scarf in blue and green to offer at the 2009 Jingle Bash on November 21 at Sons of Hermann Hall. Both are made from 100% wool then felted through a hot washing and drying process. The spiral is created line by line by going back and forth with a variety of sized stitches. It feels like a very tedious process when you are doing it, but I love the final effect. Check out the item listing to see more pictures. The blue and green version is made from a slightly finer yarn with more color variation from the dying process that give it more depth and variety. The felting process makes it seem more uniform, but color variations are still perceptible.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Chunky Cowl

I know I'm supposed to be working on smaller items for the upcoming Etsy Dallas Jinglebash on Nov. 21, but I'm in the middle of a design spree right now. It seems like every other day I'm completing some new project from start to finish that is completely unique - like this cowl. I've had that chunky brown wool-acrylic for almost a year, and I've never had a single idea of what to do with it, until now! All the sudden I had an idea and I had to make it right then. I've never even seen an item exactly like this before. The collar actually stands up and folds over itself with buttons on the side facing out on the side closest to your neck - or you wear it laying down over your shoulders by turning it inside out.

The brooch is removable. I thought the piece needed a little more color. Again, it's probably too warm to be worn much around here, but I imagine it would be very useful up north in addition to your heavy coat and hat.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


I just completed a new hood in hot pink and gray. The new one is shorter in length compared to my earlier ones, shown here, above and below. The red one was an accident after the original project didn't work out. I had a length of red and gray crocheted fabric that I folded in half and decided would make a really cute hood. From there I decided to repeat the accident on purpose and I made the gray and orange version. The hoods are so cute and have sold well to cold places, like Portland and Amsterdam! There's not too much use for a hood like this in Texas, but we have some cold days. It was 65 F today!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Fall Weddings

This is a custom order for two shrugs, similar to my Lilac Shrug, in custom colors for brown dresses at a Fall wedding. I ended up using a woven cotton yarn, which was so soft, instead of wool, like the Lilac Shrug. The colors are warmer than they appear in my photograph. I hope they did their job and that the wedding was a lovely happy occasion!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Up on the Roof

So, in addition to my yarn obsession, I'm now getting into hula hooping! It's so much fun. Here's my friend Jen of Hip Hazel Hoops on the roof at Southside on Lamar. She teaches beginning and advanced hula hooping and makes and sells hoops and accessories. I'm really enjoying working with her and learning more about coordination as well as how to laugh at myself and of course how to try and try again. The magic is when you finally get it and it feels effortless. For more on Jen on the roof, here's a video. We also worked with Kevin Todora on a fantastic photoshoot on the roof, like the image above.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Ms. Austen, again

I was just playing around with SocialMention - your site for searching the blogosphere for mentions - and noticed a reference to my Austen Flutter shawls here. I just watched Sense and Sensibility again and remembered why I do love that period and Ms. Austen so much. I kept interrupting the movie to tell my husband that the part coming up was my second, or third, or first most favorite part of the movie. I already have them in order in my head and could hardly stand the anticipation waiting for the final BEST moment at the almost-end. Here is another shawl inspired by that same line of shawls - the last one in my shop until I make more.


I just finished photographing my new hats for Fall. Here are three of the gazillion I've made recently. I can't seem to keep up with the listings. I'll work on it more today.

Meanwhile, I've just been featured on the Etsy Storque in an article on Fall Weddings!

Oh, and I'm in the Gift Guide for Fall Weddings!

Sunday, September 6, 2009


This is a custom order that I just finished. It's the white shrug with black trim that I made last spring, but with a standup collar and button closure at the neck added. The black yarn holds the lacy pattern of the crochet beautifully. I think it's pretty sharp. I'm surprised at how many custom orders I've been doing lately. The timing is spot-on. My last day of work at my full-time job is coming up this week. I'm just breaking down my office now. It's good to have projects and feel like I'm filling a need or a want. I don't expect to make a living off Etsy, or at least not off what I do at Etsy now, but it is satisfying. I try my best to make original items and to give the best customer service believing, whether there is a tangible reward for it or not, that it's the right thing to do - it just feels right. As embarrassed and self-conscious as I am sometimes, I like to feel proud of what I'm doing.

I have so many ideas for new things to make and designs to try. It's a good thing I'm going to have time, at least for a while.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Maker as Model

Thanks to a brief chat in the Etsy forums I was asked to write a tutorial about my photography process - specifically tips about how to be your own model and photographer. Check it out on Artful Chatter by Renaissance, a blog by fellow Etsian and fiber enthusiastic Rag House International. In addition to the advantages ad flexibility of being your own art director, photographer, and model I think that we (the designers/makers) are often the best embodiment of our own brand. That said, if I had the cash I do have ideas...

I photographed this hat for the article, but it sold too quickly! This is the second time I've made this design, previously in orange, and the second time I've ever had a sale in less than an hour. I NEED to keep making this hat!! :)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Jingle jingle

Great news! I've been juried into the JingleBash at Sons of Hermann Hall on November 21, 1-7 p.m. I have lots of ideas for new things to make between now and then. I'm thinking hats! And scarves, shrugs, shawls, and more. I'm also thinking about how to change up my display and maybe even try to look a little less DIY, maybe. Last year was a blast.

It's going to be great.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Fall Finally?

I'm happy to say I have started posting my backlog of shawls and shrugs from this spring and summer. I've been so behind! I'm glad Fall is on its way. People might start to think about staying warm and cute little shrugs and shawls and hats. In addition to my general procrastination, I changed cameras and I needed time to learn the new one. I think it's working pretty well. I have more hats still to list and I'm working on some new items too, so there should more regular activity on my Etsy site to come.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Spring Sprung

Just got back from the EtsyDallas Spring Bash. It was fun to see friends and to see what everyone else is making. There is so much talent in Dallas! It was also great to see my Southside on Lamar resident friends and to listen to my friend DJ JuanSolo all day. It was still too warm to even think about wearing anything slightly warm, so not great for crochet, but a fun day nonetheless. I have more inventory to post coming up over the next few weeks to catch up. I'm also going to remake the black alpaca lace shrug that I've made twice now for custom orders and try to photograph it for the first time. I finished the off-white longer version with the mohair trim ruffles and I might keep it for myself. I love how the alpaca yarn keeps the structure of the loops in the crochet. Lots of things to play with and think about. Maybe I'll start making hats for winter! Hard to even think about with June just around the corner.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Spring fairs

I'm still recovering from the Spring Fling in Fort Worth, but I'm getting excited about the Spring Bash in Dallas! Southside on Lamar is a great venue and I love being so close to home and seeing all my friends here. 

Monday, February 23, 2009

Shrugging around

I've been busy focusing on shrugs for the spring shows coming up in April and May. Etsy itself continues to be very slow for me right now, but I've rebuilt my inventory and I've started working with fusing plastic bags, sewing, and other experiments. I'm also playing with some new yarns, like this Alpaca Lace. It's a very fine soft alpaca without the bulk you usually see in this fiber. I'm very happy with the way the green shrug turned out and I'm working on a cream version. I'm planning to try longer sleeves. We'll see. Despite it's thinness, the fiber seems pretty easy to work with and loops up beautifully. I had trouble with the green tangling and making terrible knots. I had to cut it twice before I started pulling from the outside instead of the inside. Maybe it just can't take ANY friction? Usually a shrug takes an entire skein of yarn, but with this yarn, I could easily make at least two. Or, as I plan to, try to alter the garment into something more - perhaps adding tapered three quarter length sleeves or a longer back? We'll see.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Post-pop anime hood

Every once in a while you get the opportunity to have the freedom to make something truly special for someone and you know for sure that they will love it. THIS is one of those pieces. It is so over-the-top and was soooo much fun to make. This technicolor creation was blinding to work on. I'm so proud of it. I'm glad Regina likes it.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Yarn as a Form of Escapism

I just posted this yesterday. It's my fourth variation on the the Flutter Shawl. This time I tried a few new styles in the presentation. It's a substantial shawl! It has a nice weight to it. I find so much satisfaction in creating, finishing, and presenting these crocheted goods. My slogan for my Etsy shop and this blog is "yarn as a form of escapism" and let me tell you just how true that is. I came home today so stressed about work and restless and worried. I find myself forcing anxious thoughts out of my head and trying to calm my hands and challenge myself to create something all of my own. The process of designing and figuring things out is my favorite part, above all; but there is something to be said for having steady handwork to do. I was listening to a neuroscientist talking on a recent radio program. She was explaining why knitting can fight depression just like serotonin drugs. They produce a similar result. She said doctors used to prescribe knitting as a treatment for anxiety. (I've gone a bit loopy trying to remember the show or search for anything about this - I'll look again later.) The steady rhythm of the work is calming and there is a finished product as a reward at the end. For me, I appreciate that this thing (whatever it is that I've made) belongs to me and exists because of me. I'm proud of what I've made and I like that feeling. I've forgotten what I was upset about completely. Escape accomplished!