Happy first day of fall! As the seasons transition here in Toronto, I’m finding myself in my very own transition period, trying to adjust to move from the academic world that has been my life for the past several years to find what the next path will be for me.
Right now, much of my life is consumed by my knitwear design work and dyeing for Long Dog Yarn. I still don’t feel that I’ve quite fallen into a routine and am still trying to figure out a way to balance both sides of this yarny business that I love that works best for me and my goals for the business.
I’ve really felt that the knitwear side of things has been dragging behind what I had hoped. Part of that is due to an exciting reason, having two wholesale orders for my yarn that have left me with less knitting time than I would prefer. While my design time has suffered, it means you can go squish Long Dog Yarns in person at Knit1 in Chicago and at the McKinney Knittery in McKinney, Texas.
And the other reason my design is dragging? Well, it seems to be a bit of a lack of knitting mojo. Starting and stopping ideas without really completing anything. My knitting has just been missing that spark a bit. But I’m hopeful that it’s starting to come back. These past couple of weeks, I’m finally starting to feel that inspiration that drives me through the design process, with several ideas all rumbling about my head ready to get out. What a lovely coincidence that it lines up with prime knitting season.
I’m so very close to having this shawl finished. I really want it to be finished. It’s sitting in my knitting basket giving me this “you are so close, but not quite finished” look. I don’t think it’s going to get finished today. I’m not sure if this summer really has been one heat wave after another or if it just feels like that because Andy and I have been working from home and exposed to the heat more than previous summers, but either way, I’m pretty tired of it. This better be the last one. The most frustrating part of the current heat spell is that I’m about one row and a bind off away from being finished with my latest shawl, but the idea of having that heap of wool in my lap this morning is too much to bear.
Rufus is a trooper, but look at that face. Doesn’t that face just say, “Mom, when will life be comfortable again?” I feel so bad for his furry little body. Andy and I can escape to the movie theater or mall, but poor Rufus is just stuck here in the humid, stale air.
Warm days also mean very little dyeing work gets accomplished. Even if I wanted to stand next to a steaming pot of hot yarn water for any prolonged period of time, I think Andy would have me thrown into the (hopefully air-conditioned) looney bin if I fired up the stovetop today. The very last thing our tiny apartment needs at this moment in time is another source of heat and humidity, not to mention the additional scent of hot, wet sheep. Hot, wet people scent is enough for the time being.
Fall, we’re ready for you now.
Linking up with Ginny and KCCO.
Last Friday was my Ph.D. defense. After a bit of a major anxiety freak out the week before, I actually went into the defense not feeling completely out of my mind with nerves (although I did wake up around 6am the morning of, but it meant I got some knitting in before I had to head to campus). Once the actual event got going, the nerves melted away and science brain kicked in. So I can now proudly declare that I am Dr. Brandy Velten, Ph.D. I still have a strong impulse to call up every agency that sends me physical mail and change my salutation to Dr., but I haven’t. Yet.
Since earning my freedom from the academic grind house that is graduate school, I’ve been diving back into my knitting and dyeing.
I’ve got a new shawl design on the needles that I’m really enjoying at the moment. A nice simple background with a pop of color and texture that makes it a fun tv-watching knit with some bits of intrigue thrown in to look forward to every few rows. And because my shawl collection isn’t reaching outrageous proportions as it is, I’m anxious to get this one off the needles to accompany me on our evening walks with Rufus as the temperatures are (kinda, sorta, just a bit) getting cooler in these parts.
A little while back, I couldn’t help myself from dying up a few Halloween-inspired colorways for the Long Dog Yarn shop. One particularly caught my fancy, so I had to steal a skein of Boo! for myself to knit up a pair of festive Halloween socks. The medium length color changes in the skein make up some striping stripes that I’m totally digging. I’m really looking forward to some mindless knitting time on these beauties!
Linking up with KCCO and Ginny.
My knitting basket is overflowing with inspiration and and possibility, and my design notebook is full of ideas. But, lately, I can’t seem to sit still long enough to achieve very much progress any any one project. I blame multiple, coinciding factors.
One is the heat. It seems like the past month has just been one heat wave after another with only a couple of days in between to bring a reprieve. With no air conditioning in our apartment, the consecutive days of high temperatures can make sitting down and working on a knitting project an uncomfortable experience. I also find the heat makes all of us in the apartment a bit restless, with Andy, Rufus, and myself constantly moving about to try to find a bit of comfort.
On top of the warm weather, I have the heat of my approaching Ph.D. defense to contend with as well. It’s two weeks away from tomorrow and the anxiety is starting to build. Each day I’ve been working on my seminar presentation bit by bit and compiled my reading list to refresh myself on those underlying basics and get the juices flowing for those defense questions. Everyone keeps telling me that the defense is really a victory lap to celebrate and share the research of the past years, but it is still a nerve wracking experience. I know I wouldn’t be at this point if I wasn’t ready, but the long wait between finishing the thesis and actually defending it may actually be more difficult to endure than all the work I put into it!
But cooler temperatures (and hopefully a successful defense) are on the horizon and hopefully soon I’ll be able to slip back into a comfortable knitting routine and enjoy having the pressure off my shoulders. I have goals to get several new self-published knitting designs out this fall along with a few designs scheduled in some third-party publications to continue growing my design catalog.
I also have some exciting news about Long Dog Yarn. You may notice the yarn shop has a brand new look as I switch over to a new self-hosted shop (although you can still buy through the Etsy storefront for the time being, if that is your preference). Long Dog Yarn will also be available in some yarn shops very soon, so keep an eye out for that announcement to find out where you will be able to oogle some Long Dog Yarn in person.
The testing period for my newest design, the Hane shawl, is winding down, which means I’m getting into gear and revving up as I put together the final touches for the pattern release. Hane is my first design that utilizes my own line of yarns, designed specifically to showcase the speckled colorways I just love dyeing with a coordinating semi-solid tonal used for the lace border. My sample was knit using the Twist base in colorways Safari and Granny Smith.
To celebrate this brand new design, I’ve hand selected some of my very favorite colorways from the Long Dog Yarn shop in a special kit. Each kit includes your choice of yarn, including a speckled colorway and a coordinating semisolid, plus a Ravelry code to download the shawl pattern at no extra cost when it is released on August 16. Preorders for the Hane shawl kits are now available in the shop and will begin shipping on Wednesday, August 10 so you should receive your yarn just in time for the pattern release.
I’ve had such fun working up the different color combinations and imagining how each would look worked up in this design. Picking out the yarn and coordinating color combinations is one of my favorite parts of the knitting process, so it was easy to let my imagination go wild when I don’t have the usual restrictions of having to make that final choice in the end. I may be a little biased, but I’m a bit smitten with these colorways. It really is hard to pick out a single favorite. I can’t wait to dye up these kits and watch the different combinations come to life in everyone’s very own Hane.
The past few weeks have been marked by some pretty warm days here in Toronto. With no AC in our apartment the heat waves can lead to Andy and I enduring pretty toasty (not in that holly jolly way, either) temperatures that make you want to abandon all things wooly and never set foot in the kitchen again (except maybe to grab some ice out of the freezer for a refreshing cocktail).
Even though the heat has made progress slow on knitting lately, it has also inspired thoughts of cooler fall evenings and prime knitting season. So when the knitting needles aren’t clinking, I’ve been dreaming up some new design ideas and fall/winter inspired colorways for Long Dog Yarn.
Most of the ideas are still that at this moment, just words on a page and thoughts in my head, but this week I dyed up some beautiful deep rusty orange to pair with Lichen, a speckled green colorway, and began knitting away on a new shawl design with a splendidly fall-inspired leaf motif for the border. The lace chart was a little tricky to get the hang of at first, having to remember to switch the symbols between right-side and wrong-side rows (you know, knit on the right side becomes purl on the wrong side). But after working a repeat or two of the lace, things are sailing smoothly along. My absolute favorite part of the lace is the asymmetry on the edge where the leaves stick out a bit and create a wavy edging. It just adds a bit of whimsy that I always enjoy finding in a knitting design.
The color combination just screams autumn to me. Greens and oranges are not colors I tend to gravitate towards normally. Both my wardrobe and my stash are almost completely devoid of these colors, but every once in awhile it’s fun to take a step out of my comfort zone and see what other exciting possibilities lie out there in the unknown. And so far, I’m really digging this possibility and enjoying watching it grow.
Linking up with Ginny and KCCO.
To put it lightly, the past couple of months have been bonkers. It’s been a roller coaster ride of anxiety, accomplishment, uncertainty, opportunity, growth, self-doubt, and success. It is very much the beginning of a big period of transition for Andy and I as we both work fiendishly to finish our Ph.D. theses (thesi?) this summer / early autumn and move on to the next things life has in store for us.
After a lot of hard work and a little frustration, I finally had my thesis approval meeting last week and was approved to move on to the big final oral examination. All of this means that for now, my thesis is complete and will be sent off to be assessed and critiqued by experts within my field. I still have a few more steps in front of me before being awarded my degree, but it really feels like the major hurdle is past me – my supervisory committee is confident that I am prepared to defend my research and prove my expertise within the field. So while I feel great about what I’ve managed to accomplish thus far, I’m already feeling the next wave of anxiety about my final defense at the end of August.
While all that was happening, I felt like I was suffering a bit of a crisis of confidence creatively. I consistently felt like every idea I had for a new design just fell flat. Everything I had on my needles failed to satisfy that primal part of my creative being. Nothing clicked. Nothing provided that little magic glow that drives my passion for design. And each time I ripped out a design, I just felt the weight of the pressure I had placed on myself to succeed grow and grow. It just wasn’t working on the design side of things, so I channeled a lot of that creative frustration into Long Dog Yarns hoping that the color and yarn would spark that inspiration within me again and move me past this design block.
I’m not sure I’m entirely there yet, but I’ve been knitting and dyeing and just being kinder to myself. With a bit more spare time on my horizon, I’m hoping things will click back into place a bit more and I’ll get my knitting mojo back. I am trying to take that self-imposed pressure off of my shoulders and remind myself that if it’s not fun, then it’s not worth my time. And I’m starting to feel the simple pleasure in turning my ideas into a design coming back. I’ve been working on a new design using my line of yarn, Sock (colorway pictured is Freshwater Pearl), that also utilizes the speckled yarns that I love to both dye and knit. One sock down and one to go…
In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been having a lot of fun setting up a new online shop for my very own hand dyed yarns, so I’m very excited to introduce Long Dog Yarn, available now online.
I had been thinking of trying out yarn dyeing again this summer using acid-fast dyes after the small trials I had using food coloring to dye yarn. Sitting in bed one night, a thought suddenly popped into my head of a label that has a dachshund that stretches around the circumference of the label and the idea of Long Dog Yarn was born as I drifted off to sleep. That next weekend I picked up my first starter dye kit, some blank hanks of yarn, and started reading everything I could find online about mixing colors and hand dyeing yarn. And things really just took off from there. More yarn and more color and more fun.
Everyday I’m working with my yarns I learn something new, and then I have to try it out. Having all this blank yarn around is very dangerous. My favorite part of the experience is having absolute creative control over the process. My goal is to have Long Dog Yarn supplement the design side of my business, allowing me to imagine a design and create the perfect yarn to compliment it. Plus, it’s just really fun and creatively satisfying in a completely different way to the design side of things.
I am hosting my very first knit-a-long to celebrate the release of my latest shawl design, Ysabel. Full disclosure, I’ve never actually participated in a KAL before, so it’s a new experience for me all around. But I’m very much looking forward to working up this shawl with all the other knitters who have joined the KAL so far. The KAL runs until June 30th and everyone who signs up and completes the shawl (including project page with finished photos) within that time frame will be entered for a prize package including a skein of yarn from Long Dog Yarn, my new yarn line (more on that later!). If you’d like to join in, you can find us here in my Ravelry group and receive a special discount on the pattern, too!
I’m trying to narrow down my choice for my next Ysabel. I know I want to use the skein of Republic of Wool Twisted Fingering in Goober Patrol that I bought when I was visiting Portland in January, but I’m having trouble finding a color to go with it. I have a pink and a black in my stash that might work. Or maybe I need to go do a little yarn shopping?
My latest design, the Nix shawl, is now available on Ravelry. Continuing my obsession with shawls this spring, Nix is an asymmetrical triangle shawl featuring alternating panels of squishy garter stitch stripes and bright lacey diamonds. Nix is the perfect project for digging through your stash and experimenting with some super fun, unexpected combinations of colors. I used one of Miss Bab’s Trios in Yummy 2-ply for my shawl after I totally fell hard for the combination of two shades of grey, one light, one dark with the eye-popping spicy papaya colorway. The trio was originally intended for a different design altogether, but that didn’t quite work out as planned and I just couldn’t get these colors out of my mind. And Nix was born. During testing, my test knitters came up with some wonderfully spectacular combinations that I just love.
I just love the muted tones of Birgit’s Nix with the pops of colors in the stripes. It brings in a touch of color, but keeps it from being overwhelming so the shawl can be worn with almost anything. Lauren’s Nix is just about perfect in my eyes. Isn’t that blue used for the lace panels drool worthy? And I absolutely love how she also incorporated a variegated colorway into her stripes to produce one beautiful shawl. It really was a fun test knit to see everyone’s unique color choices take life.
If you find yourself feeling a little inspired to knit up your own fabulously colored Nix, you are in luck! I’m offering a 20% discount on Nix until the end of the day on Sunday, May 8th. I may just have to go stash diving to find my own wonderful combination for another Nix of my own.