Knitted Miter Square Challenge... A New Knit Handbag!

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September 01, 2015
Have you ever knitted a mitered square before?  Nope? Me neither.  Guess what?  They are fun!

Okay, I'll admit, I have seen mitered squares before in crochet and I've never liked them.  Too "fussy Granny" for me (sorry all you happy Hookers out there!).  So when I joined a new-to-me group on Ravelry named Designer's Challenge and saw that the July/August 2015 challenge was mitered squares, I wasn't thrilled to participate.  Why design something you don't like?  But then I saw the heart of the challenge for me.  I must design something I LOVE with elements I don't like and never tried before.  Ah-Ha!  And the race was on.

Did I mention I joined the group on Friday, August 28?  And the finished project due on August 31?  Yeah, I know, typical me.  Late for the party and the last one to leave.  Sigh.

So, how does one knit a mitered square?

I found some great links online:
Just to name a few.  Then I discovered that mitered squares is the same as "domino knitting."  I did a Google search and looked through the images.  Inspiring!

The evolution of the design:
I saw the movie "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." (2015) and adored that 60's hip designs.  I ADORED the handbags in the film.  Love those pod-like shapes, and the pairing of circles and bold straight lines.  There was a scooter in the film that I loved too:
Love the colours and the curves!

Then I started thinking about minimalist modern knitting that highlights shape and sparse fabric elements.  That made me look at Japanese knitting.  I love how each element is a beautiful shape in itself and creates harmony in the whole. 

I searched for knitted Japanese handbags for inspireation, and I found this Pinterest Pin:

Even though it is crochet, I loved the feel of it.

Miters!  A bit fussy for me, but love the strong lines.

So I went stash diving and found some Sirdar Snuggly , “Baby Bamboo.” 80% bamboo, 20% wool left over from a hat design.  Perfect!  And the colours reminded me of the scooter pic above.

I cast on 61 stitches and started playing.  I loved the look of a CDD (center double decrease) line, so I knew that had to be in the miter square.   Hence the odd number of stitches.  I wanted to see what happened when I paired twisted stitches and yarn overs to a miter square.  Loving the look, I did a quick sketch of what I wanted the bag to look like (and promptly lost it) and set my needles a-clacking!

So, here is the design.  I might write up the pattern, but honestly?  My wrists are too sore to contemplate any more writing, knitting, and typing.

But I do so love my little purse!

Redesigning NiNDesigns Blog

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August 25, 2015
So I've been very busy this summer learning new computer programs and playing around with coding for blogger sites.  Totally loving the coding stuff!  In fact, I'm giving my site a makeover.  What do you think so far?

I've also started a side business on Fiverr doing image background removals, converting images to vector files, and debugging blogger blogspot blogs.  If you need any help, find me here.  Hint hint!  :)

Knitting wise, things have been slow.  I did get 2 of the 4 shawls I wanted to do this summer off the needles and I cannot wait to show them to you!  I even found a VERY inexpensive way to purchase long blocking wires for almost next to nothing!  More on that latter...

The 3rd shawl is still on my needles and it is totally taking a beating.  Why?  Because I had the brilliance to increase my little family with a black Lab puppy.  My little girl named her Marla, which is "black bird" in Italian.  I love crows, ravens and black birds, so I can see her logic.  Me, I wanted to name her "Toast" because that is the extent of my cooking-- burnt toast.  Family voted and Marla it was.  :P

Now, I love puppies, but I forgot how much work they are.  And how they LOVE to shred anything that they sense you adore, like knitting bags.  I've got snags from little sharp teeth that I must darn in before I can even wear this shawl.  Grrr.

And I've found "Bloglovin."  Fun stuff! Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

A DIY Yarn Swift

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June 16, 2015

Do you have a yarn swift?  They are tremendously handy tools for a person who works with yarn.  As a fledgling yarn dyer and knitting pattern designer, you would think I own one.  Nope.  Too much money that could be spent on yarn.  Back of chairs work just fine holding skeins, don't they?  Well... not really.

Here is what I have been using.

It is one of those huge Rubbermaid circular plastic bins with the rope handles.  Most people use them for toys or laundry bins.  The circumference is usually just perfect for dropping a skein around it.  You just turn it upside down and voila!  A yarn swift to use as you wind your yarn cake or ball.  Problem:  the skein has a tendency to slip up and off is you are not watching it carefully.  Then you've got a big tanglely mess to deal with.  Yuck.

I saw a video of a yarn swift hack and it totally appealed to my cheap bone and my do-it-yourself mentality.

The person in the video uses what looked like a coat rack or shoe rack with some pipes added on the end.  I thought that design was okay, but I came up with something a little different.  All the items were bought at a thrift store except for the lazy Susan hardware and the screws.  All in all, it cost about $15 CND to make.

It involves a collapsible wine rack, a lazy Susan turntable bearing, a wooden paper towel holder and some screws.

Finding the right screws around the house was a challenge, but I did come up with 6 flat head 1/4 inch ones.  I did pre-drill the holes with a 1/16th inch drill bit because I did not want the thin wood on the wine holder to split.  I eye balled where the center of the lazy Susan was and lined it up with the center hole of the wooden paper towel base.  Very carefully, I placed the screws and tightened them, being mindful that they would not touch each other when the lazy Susan rotated.  And ta-da!  A right royal nifty yarn swift!  It spins as smooth as glass with the tiniest bit of pulling.  Since it is collapsible, it can hold different sized skeins.  I balled my Alegria yarn with it and it is a joy to use!

You can view my "DIY Yarn Swift" tutorial over at Instructables here. If you liked this post, share it with a friend! And don't forget to leave a comment below. --Nin

Giving A New Drop Spindle a Whirl

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May 04, 2015
Whilst in Halifax a fortnight ago, I had a chance to visit the ladies at LK Yarns at 5545 Young Street, Halifax (in the Hydrostone Market).  This shop is stuffed full of fibre-y goodnes!  It's guaranteed to make your wallet lighter and your stash so much more richer.  If you ever are in the Halifax area, make sure it is on your "to do" list.  Your needles will thank you for it!

Here are some of the goodies I picked up there.  Two skeins of Manos Del Uruguay Alegria in colour A8720 "Maiz."  It is a sock weight yarn that is 75% Superwash Wool, 25% Polyamide with a gauge of 28-30sts = 4" (10cm) on needle size 2.25-3.00mm / US 1-3.  It is 100grams and it seems to have a generous length of 425m / 445yds per skein.  Now that I'm in the shawl knitting swing, I thought I might pick up a few skeins to try my hand at designing one.  This wool is simply divine, and if you are in Canada, you can buy it online at True North Yarn, here.  And nope, I'm not an affiliate of this store, I just love Canadian online shops.

Up next is a Schoppel Wolle Laceball 100 in colour "Rauchzeichen" (Smoke Signals) 2169.  It is 800m / 875 yards, merino virgin lace weight wool.  Gauge is 33 sts or more/4 inch on 4-5mm needles.  I haven't knit with this brand before, but I'm not too worried about it.  This ball is very yummy squishy!

Now, the spindles!  First is a very large Turkish drop spindle made by a Halifax woodworker.  Unfortunately, I didn't get his name.  From hook to end, it's about 10 inches long, with a diameter of about 6 inches.  This feels to me like it will spin some very nice dk or worsted weight.

Next is a different style of supported spindle by the same artist.  I was so excited to buy it; I've never seen a spindle like this before.  With the metal point and the imbedded metal sleeve, I suspected that it would spin fast and long, something I've been looking for. 

But, alas, it was such a disappointment when I gave it a whirl!  It wobbled terribly and would only spin for about 15 secs.  Not long enough to get a good draw.  Too much friction on the metal shaft.  I contemplated a drop of oil, but oil and wool?  Not a good mix.  Feeling so disenchanted, I pulled it out of the support and gave the metal point at the bottom a good old snap of the fingers to set it spinning.  My super fine single felt like it was going to snap under the weight of this thing, so I dropped it to the floor, taking the spindle's weight off the single.  Holy Smokes!  The spindle straightened up and spun so fast and long I was struggling to keep up with the draw!  Huzzah!  It works beautifully.  Not as it was intended, but at least the base can work as a storage stand.  The Grand Plan?  To spin some lace weight 3 ply, using the Navaho plying technique.  The Goal?  To spin at least 15 minutes a day.   I think that is manageable.

What are some of your recent yarn shopping treats?

Designing Socks With Trains On The Brain

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May 02, 2015
Have you ever heard about The Canadian Crazy Train?  Their Ravelry group is here and their website is here.  I confess I've never heard of them before until I saw a "call for designers" in one of the Ravelry designers forums.  Here is a quote from their group page...
"The Passengers are challenged to make a single sock from one of the designs made just for the Crazy Train. They knit one sock for each of the other Passengers on their line. One sock is knit, it and the yarn and pattern are sent up the line to the next on the route, meanwhile the other passengers on the route are making their sock to send on down the line. The caper continues until all on your line have completed socks for each other stop. Prizes are awarded for first sock, first pair, first line to finish all, and random events by discretion of the organizers.
...there are three knitters per team."
 Okay, how crazy fun is that?  As a designer, I'm practically slavitating at the chance to incoperate ironwork into a sock.   I loves me some good iron bridge designs! 

So, here are some pictures of my inspiration... the old train bridge that connects the Northside and Southside of Fredericton.  It used to rotate in the middle to allow tall ships to come up the Saint John River to deposit their cargo along the city docks.  In the sixties, my mom used to run across it with her best friend dressed in heels, trying to make to to a school dance faster and cheaper than the city transit bus.  The tricky part?  Jumping over the missing railroad ties.  In heels.  Crazy! 

Now the bridge is stationary and has been converted into a beautiful walking/biking bridge.

My design may not get selected for the CCT, but it will be fun to give it a whirl.  I'm tempted to use a local yarn made by Briggs & Little from Harvey, New Brunswick Canada.  Not sure, but something to think about.

Have participated in any knitting/crocheting event like this?

From Iceland With Love... Wool!

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April 28, 2015
Yesterday I had the best surprise!  My mail lady brought to my door a package from The Icelandic Store, one of my most favourite yarn shops in the world!  Literally.  I had visited it on my yarn cruise in 2014.  I ADORE Iceland.  And I adore their yarn.

Lylie, my little sweetie-pie helped me, erm, "open" the package.  More like destroy it in my haste to get at that wool!  Zora, our lovable but nutty lab, gave it the sniff test and I am happy to say it got a wag of approval for being sufficiently "sheepy." Aren't these colours beautiful?

A couple of weeks ago, I read on Kate Davies blog about the Hap-Along being hosted by KnitBritish.  Shawls are not really my thing.  Not that I don't like them, in fact, I love shawls, but I never gave myself the time to knit them.  Too busy designing hats and socks.  Now, I've got a hankering to design a shawl, so what to do?  Why knit a few, of course.  About time!

As you know,  I joined a mystery shawl knit along by the designer Rosemary(Romi) Hill.  It is progressing swimmingly and I'm having a ball.  The juxtaposition of lace with increases, decreases, garter stitch and colour is stunning.  Romi knows her stuff!  It is so hard to wait for Friday to receive the next part of the pattern, or "clue."  Enter the Hap-Along.

(This is new for me.  The idea of having more than one project on the go is strange for me; I'm a monogamous knitter.  And for them to be shawls?  Decadent!)

What hap shall go on my needles?  Hansel (Half Version) by Gudrun Johnston.  I love the colours and as soon as I saw the pattern, I knew it had to be knit in Icelandic Einband Wool.

Now I cannot wait to finish this weeks clue for the MKAL so I can cast on this version of Hansel.   It will be my go-to shawl for the summer!  Can't you just see it with a strappy tank top with jean cut offs?  Or a cute little skirt...

What's on your needles this week?

How To Remove The Title Of A Widget In Blogger

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April 26, 2015
Of all the blogging platforms to use, I really love Blogger.  Yes, a lot of people say that it is too cumbersome and very hard to customize, but if you are not afraid to dip your toes into the raw HTML, you can do some pretty awesome stuff.

One thing I hate about the blogger widgets is that you must specify a title for most of them.  For example, the Google+ badge widget.  Is it really necessary to have "Google+ Badge" written over the badge?  Ugh. 

So, after scouring the internet without much success to permanently have the title left blank on a widget, I came up with this little work around.

First, go to the "Templates" section on your blogger menu once you are signed in.  Click on the "Edit HTML" button.  Before you do anything, make sure you have a copy of your blog saved, just encase you mess up and need to go back to the original.  Ask me how I learned that.  Grrr.

  1. Look for the name of the widget title you want to remove.  In this case, it is "Google+ Badge."
  2. Delete the code:  title='Google+ Badge'
  3. Delete the code:<b:if cond='data:title != &quot;&quot;'>
              <h2 class='title'>
  4. Click on Save Template.  Refresh your blog and see the title over your Google+ badge is gone!

Huhzahhh!  No more title over the widget in blogger.  :)

#wearyourknitting campaign Selfie!

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April 23, 2015
#wearyourknitting shot.  Not the most flattering picture, but you get the idea.  It was Bite-Your-Arse-Off cold that day.  Look at the snowbanks in the background!  Thank goodness for wool. 
A photo posted by Nin L. (@nin.designs.knitwear) on

A Year Of Handmade #6... Blogs That Inspire You

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April 16, 2015
Today's topic in the list of #AYearOfHandmade created by Rebecca of Rebecca Bee Designs is "What blogs inspire you?"

  1. :  I adore Kate.  Her blog is inspirational, intellectually stimulating, funny and full of great knitting tips.  Kate is a Scottish academic that lives with her partner Tom and their furry friend Bruce, the most inquisitive and lavishly doted upon black lab.
 Bruce Copyright
Why do I love her blog so much?  Kate is very real in her online personality.  She shares the good, the bad, and the opinionated in a very candid fashion.  She seems like a great person to sit down with, have a few beers or cups of tea and discuss and just talk.  I have a feeling we'd  either have a rip roaring verbal sparring over contrasting opinions or nearly bust a rib laughing about some great silliness. 
Kate is a scrappy survivor of a stroke.  She worked incredibly hard to regain what others might have accepted as lost for good and had the balls to take her life in a new direction.  The picture of Kate on her trike was a huge influence to me.  I adored long distance biking before my trauma and mourned the loss of it keenly.  Balance is an enormous issue for me, along with anxiety.  But, I got back on a bike last summer and accomplished another goal on my list.  I may be wobbly, but the biking bug is back in full force.

     2. ... I really love going through the old posts and reading Ysolda's insights as she rocketed to knitting super-stardom.  She is fun, witty and very smart. 

And, like Kate, she is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to sewing!  (I'm still a grasshopper in the sewing circle of life.)  Ysolda is a twenty-something Scot that teaches a mean sweater shaping class and an extraordinary business woman to boot.  It's on my bucket list to attend one of Ysolda's classes in the future.  I must say, as much as I love Ysolda's old blogging, her current entries are few and far between.  But when they come, they are usually excellent.  Ysolda is actually the impetus for me purchasing my beloved Olympus Pen camera.  Her photography is so beautiful! 

      3. ... A non-knitting blog?  Yup.  I love Virginia's spunk and vision.  She got me wielding a paint brush and looking at old furniture with a different eye.   She also got me over the horror of painting wood, LOL! 
Virginia also serves up some sage advise on a verity of subjects and her "how-to" tutorials are excellent.  I also have a more discerning eye when I go thrift shop shopping.  Make the hubby happy too!  :)

     4. ... Back to knitting blogs.  Well, mainly.  Rebecca is an awesome Canadian (yeah!) crafter that taught herself to knit, and oh my, she is on fire. 

This young lady (yikes, that makes me sound so old) reminds me of Ysolda Teague, the early years.  Rebecca always has interesting posts and tips that get the creative juices brewing.  I love her Instagram pics.  Her "blog voice" is witty and original, the makings of a very fun read!  Rebecca also started the #YearOfHandmade link up party, which I find really fun to participate in.  Along with being so social media savvy, she has some really cute designs for crochet too.  Sadly, I'm not much of a crocheter, so I can only admire them from the other side of the hook.

     5. ... Another life and knitting blog.  I really enjoy seeing the alert pop up in my email that Lesley's got a new post out.  Not only is she a fellow Canadian, but lives in my home Province!  How cool is that?!? 
And she is laugh-out-loud funny.  Seriously, some posts must not be read with a mouthful of hot beverage, 'cos it'll be spurting out your nose.  Remember, you've been warned!  Currently, she is working on an epic sock yarn scraps blanket.  It is crazy cool, but I don't think I've got the fortitude to take on such a task.  She has a ton of sock yarn with a serious sock yarn fetish.  You can find her patterns over on Ravelry here.

So, these are some of my inspiring blogs in a nutshell.  Hmmm.  I think there is more, but I can't remember them right now.  That's not surprising, considering my short term memory thing.  I think I should make a link list on my site. 

What blogs inspire you?

A Year Of HandMade #5: Favourite Thing You Have Ever Made

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April 15, 2015
Eeeps!  I'm falling behind in my blogging list for the #yearofhandmade link up!  Onwards, and hopefully I'll catch up during April... :)

#5:  What is the favourite thing you have ever made?

That is a tough question.  I craft.  A lot.  Hmmm.

Right now I'm in the throws of dyeing yarn, so... I'd have to say this nifty large tool:

The PVC Skein Winder
Now this is not a picture of mine, but I made it exactly to the plans, so it is virtually identical.

It has a diameter of almost exactly 2 yards.  I can use it upright or lay it flat on the floor, depending which is the easiest choice for my poor shoulder.  It spins like a dream!  (The skein winder, not the shoulder, LOL!)

Here is another one I might make...

I can see this as being very handy for rewinding a dyed skein.

If I choose to dive deeper into the natural dyeing world, I think I'm going to build a foot pedal powered skein winder with an electronic counter.   Something like in the video below...

And I think I'm going to build one of these!  'Cos it looks really handy and fun! 
So how about you?
What is the favourite thing you have ever made?

Monday Musings... Scars, Tattoos, and Memories

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April 13, 2015
I dropped the kids off at school, then drove home to sit in my car in the driveway thinking about memories in the very early morning light.  Not just mental memories, but physical representation of them.  What sparked this?  Believe it or not, a pop song from the movie "The Hunger Games."

Recently I've been, well, "searching" for myself.  Wondering who I am and where am I.  This stems mainly from being fractured so very badly from a trauma that left me physically and mentally in pieces.  I remember not much of my recovery and there are huge painful gaps in my memories.  But I do remember asking one of the many specialists working with me and my poor brain if I should be "sewing" the old pieces of me that I could remember with these frightening new pieces of me.  Or should I just kill the old "me," forget her and let myself grieve for her.  Surprise, surprise, no clear cut answer.

Seams are the scars of cuts and are necessary to make something new.  In medicine, they talk of letting wounds "knit" or heal, to make the tissue or the brain whole again.  But, there is a scar, a "seam."  A physical reminder of the wound itself. 

I never understood the urge to get a tattoo.  One of my girlfriends has an art gallery all over her body.  Not for me.  Why change what you were born with?  But this morning, it dawned on me that the tattoos are memories printed on the skin.  They are symbols of where you are and your ideas of who you are at a certain time and space.  And they can define you.

Tribal tattoos and body scarring has always fascinated me.  Now I don't mean those silly "tribal" tattoos that every Tom, Dick and Harry were plastering their bodies with in the 1990s.  I mean the "real" ones that indigenous peoples create on themselves in relation to their customs and cultures.  Ever see the movie "The Piano"with Harvey Keitel?  I adore that movie.  The Maori people in it are fascinating, and I find the tattoos that they adorn their faces with really beautiful. 

Gorgeous designs and patterning!  (And the men are handsome to boot!)

To tattoo the face is a very bold thing to do.  There is no hiding it, but it can be a "mask" that is meant to be interpreted by the viewer.  Maori facial tattoos are to highlight the strength and the fierceness of the warrior.  That is the "mask" they wear and idea they project.

I can relate to this.  At my darkest point, I used smiles, jokes and being very attentive listener as a "mask" the pain and mixed up person I was.  One of the psychologists hit it right on the head when he said I was so very funny and engaging, but obviously I was wearing this mask because I was in his office.  Happy people are not referred to him.  That was like a left hook to the jaw and the masked slipped.  He got the see the real mess underneath. 

And now back to "The Hunger Games."  Katniss is damaged from the games.  She exhibits symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  I think she was predisposed to this from the trauma she sustained earlier from the death of her father and the emotional withdrawal from her mother's breakdown.  Being the one to make sure the family did not die of starvation was also a huge stress factor.  She was primed for PTSD.

Jennifer Lawrence did a wonderful job portraying Katniss.

Lorde, a young New Zealand singer/poet wrote the gripping song "Yellow Flicker Beat."
Beautiful lyrics.  I especially love:
I'm a princess cut from marble, smoother than a storm
And the scars that mark my body, they're silver and gold
 And these:
And now people talk to me I'm slipping out of reach now
People talk to me, and all their faces blur
But I got my fingers laced together and I made a little prison
And I'm locking up everyone that ever laid a finger on me
Ah, ptsd and a little hyper-vigilance in there.   Gotta love that mix.

The scars are silver and gold, they are precious because she can never forget how she got them.  That brings me back to body adornment.  Tattoos and scarification.

I recently found out about tattoos created with white ink and I adore them.  They looks like a ghost of an image, a light kiss of colour applied to the skin.  But as beautiful as they are, I am still hesitant to get one.

They must be applied by a master tattooist because the white ink is so hard to control.  It can get into the "blood" and move slightly, making the design look like a scar.  Designs must be applied free hand due to image transfer inks applied to the skin for a tattooist to follow can mix with the white ink whist the needle pierces through them and muddy the white ink.  If they are done right, they are so beautiful.

 They make me think of knitted or tatted lace when I look at them.  Knitting was so central to my recovery.  Should I tattoo a design on my body to pay homage to it?  Hmmm.  

When in New York for Vogue Knitting 2014, it dawned on me that this city would definitely have a tattooist capable of quality of work I am thinking about.  But I did not have any time to research it properly.  Plus, sitting in workshops trying to learn new things with a skin wound did not appeal to me.  I let shrugged the idea off.

I've chatted with a few people that have amazingly, insanely intricate tattoos that I've met here and there.  The main consensus indicates that these types of tattoos are not stable.  They tend to fade over time.  Huh.  If I have a mind to do it, I'm going to research that further.  If I ever choose to tattoo my body, I want that visual representation of a memory to be permanent, like a scar.  

Scars do not bother me.  In fact, they can be rather beautiful.  Scarification is a process of cutting and removing pieces of the skin in a pattern for body adornment.  It's like cutting your "brand" into the skin.  Every person's skin reacts differently to cuts.  The scar may be raised or flat.  They may fade to white after time or they may not.  Tricky things, scars.  

The permanency of scarification appeals to me, but the process?  Not so much.  If you are not faint of heart, try googling scarification.  All I can say is YIKES.

So, if you were to celebrate a memory, what would you print on your skin?