#100HappyDays - Week Five

Time for week five of #100HappyDays – a challenge to find one thing that makes me happy each day for 100 days. This week was full of celebrations with loved ones and peaceful solitary moments. (If you’re curious, here are Week 1Week 2Week 3 and Week 4).

<<April 29, Tuesday – A sunset walk to Venice Beach on a balmy evening>>iPhone 001

<<April 30, Wednesday – Lingering over a solo lunch at the beautiful and quiet-on-a-Wednesday Republique restaurant>>iPhone 057

<<May 1, Thursday – Visiting a lighting showroom with my awesome architect sister>>iPhone 002

<<May 2, Friday - Celebrating my best friend's birthday with a tipsy night out>>iPhone 003

<<May 3, Saturday – An afternoon of nerdy board games, wine and cheese>>iPhone 029

<<May 4, Sunday – Celebrating my dad's birthday with amazing food and family>>iPhone 031

<<May 5, Monday – Jacaranda blooms littering our street>>iPhone 010

Not Your Grandma's Knits: Wool and the Gang

This week's Not Your Grandma's Knits started out in the usual way, with some pretty pictures that caught my eye. But the more I read about Wool and the Gang, the more intrigued I became. Turns out they're not your everyday knitwear brand. Instead of factory production, each of their ready-to-wear items is handmade by a member of "The Gang", their global network of individual knitters. They also sell kits, which contain everything you need (yarn, knitting needles, pattern and finishing tools) to knit your own item at home.d2newone BUT!! (and for some this is a pretty big but)...

These kits aren't cheap. The Lula Hoop Scarf Kit is $74 and gets you 400 grams of 100% Peruvian wool super chunky yarn, a pair of US 19 knitting needles and a pattern to create a basic loop cowl. So there's a lot of chatter on Ravelry, Twitter and knitting blogs about how outrageous the prices are, how hipster and out of touch the brand is with actual knitters and how the expense actually turns away people who want to learn to knit.

But there's also a lot of positive coverage on how Wool and the Gang has helped to make knitting glamorous and cool again, one press release even crediting the brand with "mastermind[ing] an ever-so-cool comeback" for knitting. And after researching these guys for hours on end, I agree - maybe not with the masterminding bit - but a company that gets people interested in knitting is a good thing. Some commentators declare that it's easy to choose yarn and needles and get patterns online, but I think they're forgetting how intimidating it is to face the wall of yarn at Michael's for the first time. Worsted or DK? Acrylic or wool or a blend? And what about needles? What size goes with my yarn and do I use circular, straight or DPNs? After all this trouble, will I end up with a lumpy scarf that I never even wear? If my grandmother hadn't been there to teach me, I may have been too overwhelmed to start. If you can afford it, a Wool and the Gang kit may be the thing to help you finally jump in. 

And as for the price, $74 for two balls of yarn, a pattern and a set of knitting needles sounds like a lot. But they source their yarn from sustainable producers in Peru and their needles look downright luxurious. I recently started selling knitwear and patterns and it's completely changed my view on pricing - $74 isn't just for wool and wood, it has to cover labor, packaging, marketing and so much more in overhead! Fast fashion chains have gotten us used to shockingly low prices for knitwear. But what does an $8 "disposable" sweater really cost us in terms of environmental pollution, resource depletion, labor violations and human dignity?

When all is said and done, I'm glad that Wool and the Gang is here and thriving. They want to make knitting fun and sexy and bring value back to items crafted by hand at home. And, if nothing else, their designs are pretty cool, no?

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So what do you think? Love 'em or hate 'em?

A little DIY: Knitting Needle Holder

DIY Knitting Needle Holder via FuzzyCloudDesigns Blog Does anyone else see empty containers the way I do? Not as trash but as potential. I guess that's the allure of alchemy - making something useful and beautiful out of nothing. This gets me into trouble with my roommate because I'm constantly hoarding sturdy boxes and well-made containers, but eventually I find a use for (most of) them.

Take this empty Trader Joe's coffee canister, for example.ETSY Knits 067

I knew it would be good for something and later that day, when I was rooting around in my mess of a knitting bag for the fourth in a set of DPNs, it hit me. This coffee canister would be the perfect height to stash all my knitting needles. But when I threw them in there, they just tilted all over the place and my Size 15 giants just about knocked the whole thing over.

The answer to this dilemma?025Rice! Filling the container about half full of uncooked rice weighs it down just enough and keeps the knitting needles secure and upright. Sets of needles stay together so they're easy to see and easy to grab.

To make it pretty, I just knit up a quick cozy using some navy and teal yarn and "embroidered" a heart shape on the front with some of the teal accent yarn. 015

The cozy knit up super quickly (30 stitches knit circular in stockinette using bulky weight yarn and US Size 10 needles). The hardest part was getting the heart shape just right but after fiddling with it for half an hour, I decided it didn't have to be perfect. I think it looks charmingly imperfect and handmade - a fitting vessel for the instruments of my craft =)

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Not Your Grandma's Knits: Johan Ku

More inspiring modern knits, this time by Johan Ku, a designer born in Taipei who started as a graphic designer and is now known for his sculptural, extreme chunky knits. The first photo is from his "Wearable Art" runway collection and is more conceptual than wearable, but the two cowls and mitts from his accessories collection are SO up my alley. 41

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Yum: Cookies and Coffee

My favorite combo to fuel my knitting: warm cookies and a cup of 'jo Cookies are my favorite things to bake - they're unpretentious and comforting and come together quickly and are endlessly customizable. The cookies below are from the SeriousEats food lab and are billed as the "best" chocolate chip cookies - and they are richly chewy with deep caramel flavors. For a more soft, cakey cookie, I like this recipe from good ol' Betty Crocker.ETSY Knits 043

Coffee is a topic too grand for likes of this blog, but I've found lately that a tiny french press is the perfect way to make a single, mellow, non-bitter cup.

Knitting in the Sun

Knitting Life 025 I brought my knitting to my parents' house today, 30 minutes away from central Los Angeles, in the deep San Fernando Valley where there are lush, green backyards as far as the eye can see. Instead of the incessant chatter of TV, there were birds.. flitting about and chirping about whatever birdly business they were up to. There were actually butterflies, multiple butterflies, fluttering around and a lone dragonfly hovering shimmering still in the air. The sun beat upon me gently and insistently and thousands of leaves sighed and chattered as they brushed up against each other. Occasionally, the wind chimes would play their high, sweet notes as they danced. Above this all was the click and sweep of my knitting needles and my work grew steadily and it felt like I had been in this sunny snow globe for ages and then I looked at my watch - 6 minutes.

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Not Your Grandma's Knits: Sandra Backlund

Now don't get me wrong, my grandma taught me how to knit when I was nine and she was awesome. I just wanted to use this series to explore modern knits with a little more edge, to challenge the notion that all hand-knit things look like this: Knitted nightgown 1936

And, holy cow, I'm starting off with a doozy: Swedish fashion designer Sandra Backlund who uses knits in the most astonishing and sculptural ways. Wearable for the average human being? Maybe not. But breathtakingly inspiring? Hell yes.

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