Category Archives: Hella opinionated

Photography, and a swatch not long for this world

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Swatching feels good. I ended ripping out this entire thing once I figured out what it had to tell me. I’m the kind of person who sketches things out almost entirely in my head and on paper, and swatches purely to check the numbers.

It’s been nice turning my sketches from the last few weeks into something real, and having a schedule that’s reasonable enough that I can innovate again. Work got so bad for a long time that I couldn’t knit anything beyond what a pattern told me to.

I also got to flex some different creative muscles recently, on a photo shoot in Joshua Tree for some chosen family in bourbon and cowboy boots, Outlaw Soaps, complete with burritos at sunrise and hasty costume changes in an open field and sand in just about everything.

The outlaws themselves

It was nice remembering that, right, I do know my way around a camera. Danielle’s and Russ’ pure joy as they proofed photos together meant a lot. She’s one of those people you hear about who quits a fancy tech job to relentlessly pursue a dream, so company photos that make them feel happy and excited aren’t just marketing material — they’re fuel that helps keep a dream running.

Anyway, back to swatching and writing up some patterns that have been a long time coming. Also, I’m trying out posting from my phone with this updateand lemme tell you, it’s cool, but pretty inconvenient.

Here — until next time, have some pure, high-proof Joshua Tree sunrise.

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Heath Ceramics

While I knit my secret project, let’s talk about something completely unrelated to knitting and very cool: Heath Ceramics.

Founded in 1948 and happily churning out gorgeous tile and tableware in that subtle but occasionally playful midcentury style I love, Heath Ceramics is a recent favorite of mine. Their stuff is pretty.

I found out about them from my boyfriend, who occasionally “adopts” the Heath pieces used at his work when they chip and have to be retired. I have one of their cups at my work, and bring it with me when I go to local cafes for coffee. (I am, uh, a little granola like that.) It’s not uncommon for a barista to pick it up and then stop, heft it a little, then turn it over to look for a maker mark and ask “That’s nice, is it Heath?” The first time it happened, I felt like I’d been accepted into some kind of extremely tasteful secret society.

One of the great things about living in the Bay Area is that we’re spoiled completely rotten with beautiful, locally made things. The original factory where they still make their dishware is only about a mile from the place I sometimes stay in Sausalito. If you ever can, go on the studio tour, where you can walk through and see work in all stages from research to finished product.

To a certain kind of person ‐ a me kind of person ‐ it is, to be succinct, a fucking marvel: tables of glazing test pieces in bright and layered colors; mismatched, decades-old tile set into walls; vats and walls covered in decades of clay buildup; and, best of all, shelves and shelves and shelves of creamy-smooth plates and cups and dishes with the texture of a brand new egg.

On that studio tour, the boyfriend and I also got a sneak peak at a wall clock that I learned months later was a collaboration with another design favorite of mine, House Industries. How cool is that?!

On that same trip, I fell in love with a little sugar bowl in the overstock section that was missing its lid. (Yes, they have an overstock section! Heath ain’t cheap, but if you can still love pieces with slight freckles or imperfections, you can get them for a pretty decent price break.) The sugar bowl fit perfectly in my cupped hand ‐ granted, I have giant hands ‐ and it was all I could do not to rub the smooth-but-not-slick linen finish on my face.

So if you get a chance, swing by the studio. If you can’t, there’s a virtual tour you can check out. And if you want a trendy food experience that’s way more actual San Francisco than clam chowder in a bread bowl (seriously, nobody does that but tourists), order a flat white at one of the city’s zillions of cafes and bring your own cup.

No, the barista won’t look at you funny. Promise.

The laziest possible project bag

Over the years, I’ve tried every kind of project bag for carting around my knitting: special totes with special pockets; cute, sturdy little bags from Etsy; ones I’ve sewn myself; cheap drawstring bento bags from the dollar store in Japantown; things that double as purses and don’t look anything like a knitting bag until the moment you fish a ball of yarn out of them. I’ve got a million little sketches for project bags with reinforced sides that won’t let needles poke through, and a million Pinterest pins for tutorials on perfect little bags.

But what I actually use these days for holding knitting projects is way less fancy. It’s pretty much a hobo bindle without the stick.

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See? A bindle without a stick.

I have about zillion bandanas, thanks to years of camping trips. They’re like a smaller, lighter version of the bath towel in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” as far as I’m concerned:

  • I’ve used them for tying up my hair, of course.
  • They’re a great impromptu snot rag. (Those don’t get reused for other purposes before getting washed. Mostly.)
  • Pull a bandana up over your mouth and nose, bandit-style, for a pretty effective dust mask.
  • Soak a bandana in some of your drinking water and tie it around your neck, and it’ll keep you cool.
  • Dry off a bicycle seat in rainy weather with one.
  • Soak two bandanas for you and your friend to drape over your heads like miniature swamp coolers as you fry in midsummer wine country heat in a car with broken air conditioning.
  • Tie a bandana onto the roll cage of a pickup truck to use as a handle when you ride in the bed.
  • Fold small items inside one if you don’t want them lost in your luggage.
  • Use a bandana to mop up sweat, to dry off tears, to wrap around a sore wrist when you don’t have a wrist brace.

Or keep your knitting in one: Lay it flat, set your knitting in the center, tie the opposite corners in half knots, and go. It’s more secure than you think, since knots stay put in your average bandana’s slightly rough cotton.

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Outlaw pride! My favorite, incidentally, is their Sage Copper Canyon.

This particular bandana was a gift from my friend Normal of Outlaw Soaps, from a screenprinting test run she did on bandanas for Outlaw’s subscription boxes. The logo is based on a tattoo we share — it’s sort of funny to see my little Joshua Tree on business swag.

I’m not saying it’s a perfect system. I lost a few stitch markers at first when I left them loose in the bottom of a project bundle. (Now I fold them into a second bandana and tuck it inside, or focus on the stitch pattern so I can skip markers entirely.) And I bet I look a bit more like a spaz when I take out my knitting on the subway with my strange little bindle. It certainly doesn’t have the polish of a matchy-matchy craft bag that screams “I am a crafter and I know what I’m doing” to passers-by.

But I like it. It’s impossible to lose anything in a flat sheet of fabric: Untie the corners, and I can see my whole project and all its related yarn.

And there’s another thing, I guess. As I get older, I get less invested in whether I have the “right” gear. Shopping bothers me these days: I get a little freaked out sometimes at the idea of trading money for more stuff, when I already have too much stuff and can think of bigger things to put the money toward. I’m gradually getting more interested in what I already have that might serve me in new and useful ways.

And as much as I can appreciate things like color-coordinated accessory bags, I kind of like the idea of a project bag that can double as a tourniquet when it’s not carrying a shawl.

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YESSSSS

Oh my god, I just put it together in my head that my friends’ tiny, adorable baby daughter with a perpetual hipster deadpan is a BABY. Like the kind you can put EXTREMELY WHIMSICAL HAND-KNITTED THINGS on, and it can’t complain because it can’t even sit up its own yet, never mind have a preferred design aesthetic beyond “does it fit in my mouth.”