Friday, 30 January 2015

dye pots and lightboxes

earlier this week, i built a lightbox using this wonderful tutorial. it was easy peasy lemon squeezy, and i am really really REALLY pleased with the resulting photographs. 

sunflower knit gradient sock. 75% superwash merino wool/25% nylon. shown from eastern brazilwood and madder.

sunflower knit gradient sock. 75% superwash merino wool/25% nylon. shown from logwood and yellow onion skins. 

sunflower knit gradient sock. 75% superwash merino wool/25% nylon. shown from logwood and yellow onion skins. same as above

sunflower knit glitter sock. 70% superwash merino wool/25% nylon/5% stellina. shown from yellow onion skins.
sunflower knit decadence roving. 70% merino wool/30% silk. shown from yellow onion skins.

i built the lightbox in the evening, went out for drinks and brainstorming with kelly again (we have ALL OF THE IDEAS), and then came home a little bit tipsy to take photos after midnight. why, ash, would you stay up so late? because i wanted to take advantage of moo's business card sale, and photos of the yarn needed to be included. i am mildly terrified about the business cards somehow turning out not exactly as i hope, because i worry about things like that, but i know moo as a company and trust them, so i'm just crossing my fingers that i did everything properly on my end of things. we shall see in three or so weeks. moo, for those of you who are curious, do this beautiful thing of offering up to 50 different image uploads for free, which means that as a creative, you can showcase way more of your work and practice via your business cards than you would normally be able to. mine feature everything from the yarn to patterns to undies to bones. i have a very strange practice, now that i think about it...

sunflower knit sock. 100% peruvian highland wool. shown here clockwise from yellow onion skins, madder, and avocados.

speaking of my practice, i have some thoughts about dyeing. it's funny, because on the one hand i think it would be great and convenient as a seller to be able to reproduce colourways in, at the very least, a semi-reliable fashion. and yet, as an artist and creative, my practice doesn't find that particularly inspiring. nor does it feel like it fits well with the whole idea of natural dyeing and a slow handmaking movement. as an exercise and experiment, yes absolutely it could be fascinating. but as an ongoing practice for the purposes mainly of making money (i.e. someone says "i really love that thing that person/you knit with that yarn, can you make it again?"), it's probably the most soul-sucking thing i could do. the aspect i love so much about natural dyeing is the surprise every time a skein dries. it's amazing, and fascinating, and makes me want to play more to see what colours will turn out next. so i'm working very hard with my brain to help it come to terms with the idea of one-of-a-kinds as a practice, and with the idea of small batches because, well, my dye pot can only fit so many skeins. i do dream of someday sourcing a pot that's large enough to get a sweater's worth of skeins in it (partially because it will speed up my pre-mordanting so much!), but beyond that, i like the idea of only ever having a shawl's worth of the same dye bath. it means that people's projects, made with my fibre, will be even more unique to them, and that is far more exciting to me than seeing people all knit the same item over and over again. if you're going to take the time and energy and passion to make something by hand, why on earth would you ever want it to look the same as everyone else's? that's just my thoughts, of course, but since it's also my artistic practice and my fibre to dye, i'm sticking to my own thoughts. at least until they change again!

Friday, 23 January 2015

areas of inspiration

my brain is full to the brim these days of exciting projects and collections and goals (chalk it up to that resolution post). i won't post them all here, because they're not all formulated, and some require talking to other folks, and also there's that issue of not "publishing" anything beforehand with certain projects (this includes personal social media accounts, or so i'm led to believe). anyway, that's not the focus of this post. i wanted to share with you all some of the sources of inspiration that are leading to all of these grand plans! because i actually firmly believe that some of these sources of mine are actually sources for quite a few of you these days, and that's one of the most exciting things about the handmade community to me.

first up, shannon okey's brilliant the knitgrrl guide to professional knitwear design. shannon includes everything from how to tweet professionally to how to write a book proposal. i picked up a copy at my library (how cool is my library??), but i may eventually grab a copy of my own. i've been skimming different bits rather than reading cover to cover, but it's awesome and easy to understand wherever i pick it up. i'm trying to do cover to cover during my bus rides, which are the perfect length of time for a few pages but not enough for knitting, so i don't feel bad.

next up, madelinetosh's instagram feed. madelinetosh is already one of my favourite yarn suppliers (how could they not be?), but following them on instagram just makes me love the company more. from posts like this one to the recent natural dye adventures, i'm just falling more and more in love with madtosh. i've designed a couple of pieces using their yarns recently, including abalone and another waiting elsewhere (news on it to eventually come, whether it's self-published or not), and i have another design using one of their blends that will be going in as a submission this spring. i'm not obsessed at all. nope, it's all perfectly fine...

A photo posted by Cait Ffrench (@ffrench) on

ok, realistically, instagram in general. i won't tag every single person i follow and drool over, because that would be too long of a list. but some main ones are caitlin ffrench (@ffrench), annie claire (@byannieclaire), the ladies of minnehaha fiber works (@minnehahafiberworks), and of course ashley yousling (@woolful). colours, nature inspiration, process...instagram has created this space where we can curate visual representations of our journeys and share them with other people. one of the things i love best about creative life is the process, and seeing other people's processes (it was one of the best parts of my residency last summer). instagram may have its flaws, but it is also one of the greatest social media tools for connecting handmakers and creatives to one another across borders. (imagine if we could create equal internet access across the globe for everyone, regardless of location or income level, how incredible it would be to see the points of view of any culture!)

i would be remiss if i didn't mention ashley's woolful podcast. i'm convinced that woolful is changing the wool industry, at least the north american one, in small and big ways, and instagram is letting us see it in real time. from established acid dyers like pigeonroof studios and madtosh playing with natural dyeing (there is nothing more exciting to me than to watch the process of people who know their shit when it comes to dyes experimenting with natural ones) to companies like knit picks bringing in breed-specific and ethically sourced wool lines (although i can't seem to find them anymore so it was probably a very short window...change can still be slow), there's a big shift happening in wool world, and i swear to glob you can feel it happening and trace it back to woolful's launch. it's incredible and exciting and terrifying in a wonderful way to see and feel the impact of a single person's journey shared via social media. incredible. so so so incredible.

seriously, how adorable can she get? photo from her website. also, i want her leggings.
finally, hang-out dates with my friend and often-times mentor, kelly ruth. kelly taught me how to do natural dyeing last february, and it's become a major part of my fibre practice. the fact that we're often inspired by similar things is just super convenient. put the two of us together and we come up with the coolest collaboration ideas (no bias here, none at all). she's also a big part of why i'm doing a trunk show later this spring. we're currently tossing around a few ideas for collaborative creations, so i'm sure there will be announcements at some point of our crazy plans. expect fire to be involved. and foraging. and probably weird installations. i love her and our friendship a lot.

so what is inspiring you lately? inspiration and resources are a fascinating part of the process.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

drool-worthy #15 - "54 rue du château"

collaborations make me exceedingly happy. as much as i love being left to my own devices and creativity, there is nothing quite like finding those other creatures who inspire and push your artistic (or non-artistic!) practices in beautiful and challenging and caring ways. which is why my latest drool-worthy post is as much about the patterns as it is about the manner and way the patterns were conceived.

photo from avfkw's website

meet 54 rue du chateau, a collection from a verb for keeping warm (someday i will get to this magical beautiful inspiring place) and designers bristol ivyleila raabe, amy christoffers, michele wang, mary-heather browne, and olga buraya-kefelian. the concept was that each shawl in the collection used one of verb's beautiful naturally dyed yarns, and each designer would begin and finish a shawl, but that each shawl would also travel to the other designers for them to knit a section in the body. 


i love this whole concept, which i've played in various versions using other mediums but never with a knit design. it's so clever and engaging! and is a wonderful exercise in letting go and trusting your co-conspirators. 

of course, the fact that the shawls all turned out beautifully and i can't help but drool over the yarns is a bonus for my nerdy love and adoration. i'm feeling a deep gratitude to the fibre and handmade communities these days, because it feels like they are increasingly welcoming and exciting places to reside. and i want to try my own exquisite corpse game with my own friends! perhaps crossing mediums and disciplines, because i'm into that these days. well, all the days really. 

rabbits, winnipeg lovelies, artsy social media friends whom i've never met in real life but feel a deep kinship with, what do you say? shall we play our own little game?

Monday, 19 January 2015


my latest design, abalone, is available for download now from my ravelry shop!

i love this shawl a lot. it looks super fancy, but is actually pretty mindless to knit. these days, i really appreciate that. i currently have four other wips actively on the go/in the immediate queue and only one of them is mindless enough for social/casual knitting. i seem to be really into fancy lace and shaping these days, which is great and all, but it makes for very challenging knitting times. i need to be a) awake enough to focus on my stitches and b) not distracted. which doesn't work when i'm just hanging out with folks or catching up on a couple of rows on the bus or at my desk during a break! 

abalone offers a stunning result while also working as casual drinks-after-work knitting. the rows are squishy thanks to easy eyelets and single ply yarns from madelinetosh and tanis fiber arts, and the shell lace edging is only a few rows of simple lace! i was inspired by these two colours, and knew the two skeins that sat in my stash needed to be paired together. i'm very happy that i waited until i had the perfect design in mind for them.

eventually, this shawl will get an ocean-side photo shoot along with some other ocean-inspired knits. i have a small collection semi-planned. but for now, abalone can be enjoyed all on its own, and you can even enjoy some outtakes from the photo shoot in my girlfriend's historical building! how convenient that she lives somewhere pretty, especially when it comes to january photo shoots in manitoba…

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

drool-worthy #14 - sweater weather is better weather

the temperature here in winnipeg has dropped well below freezing since the new year (we can't complain too much, considering we hung out around -40 and literal mountains of snow for the better part of six months last winter). still, all i want to do is wrap myself in cozy handknits. particularly large shawls and huge sweaters in order to pretend i never left my warm bed. unfortunately, working on when nature fought back and some other projects means i can't really justify a selfish knit, particularly of the oversized sweater variety. but a knitter can dream! so here are my current dreams...

ice shanty by amy miller.

plucky knitter paired up with amy miller and some others to release all bundled up, which has a bajillion cozy and clever knits. my absolute favourite is ice shanty. seriously, it looks (and probably feels) like you are wearing a blanket, but it happens to have some majorly clever and gorgeous construction. i just...i want...sigh...maybe it wouldn't take too long to knit?

definitely susan by josée paquin.
how did nobody think of this before??? how clever is that?! all of the punctuation! but seriously, i love this idea. a scarf attached to cardigan buttons. i actually bought this pattern for my mumsy, because she really liked it. there are some clever knitting brains out there, that's for sure. 

i also have six skeins of malabrigo worsted and six skeins of northbound knitting merino sport hanging out in my stash for lila and hana hou, and given that one of my knitting resolutions is to work through my stash, it would be smarter to start with one of them. i also have purl soho's short row sweater still on my needles and probably 75% complete since april of 2013. i'm using uncommon thread's now discontinued silky alpaca sport in aged merlot for it, and it's absolutely gorgeous, but i just have left it for months. so maybe i can finish that up and at least clear out part of my wip pile.

one of my other knitting resolutions this year is to design a full-sized garment, complete with grading, and i find that my design work is better when i've worked through several other patterns to get a better feel for construction, stitch counts, shaping, and the like. so really, i do need to find the time to do some larger selfish knitting. i'll just have to sort myself out and hunker down with my needles during my off time. 

what sweaters are you dreaming of? how do you balance work and pleasure knitting? or do you find yourself always doing one more than the other?

Monday, 5 January 2015

welcoming in the new, and reflecting on the old

happy 2015! just like last year, i'm a bit late to the mark with my resolutions, but in all honesty, i think resolutions can be made any day. waiting for a specific day or time or moment to start making positive changes in your life is silly. why not just start now? of course, a new year is always nice as a benchmark (or perhaps a bookmark), so coming up with new ones and ticking off the old ones is not a bad exercise either. what follows here is my (attempt at) stretching.

last year's resolutions:
-get back to a daily yoga practice, adding in some meditation 
-learn how to kick up into handstand
-knit more things that i enjoy, and stress myself out less with knitting deadlines
-continue to travel
-start my yoga training (?)
-expand both companies - artistically, business-wise, geographically, and socially
-get back to the music
-play more in every way 
-find my love of nutrition again - i know it's good for me, and i enjoy it, so it's just a matter of reigniting that passion in the kitchen
-get better at photography
-express myself more fully
-be kinder, to myself and to others
-find that gratitude and embrace it sincerely
-more poetry, in every part of my life
-breathe more openly
-save some money. nest eggs are nice, and not stressing over bills is even better.

i didn't tick them all off, but i think i'll keep at them. some will be indefinitely postponed (like my yoga training and expanding the theatre company), but others will be fun to keep trying at right now.

my resolutions for this year are also a mix of the tangible and the not-so-tangible. this year has more of the tangible than last year. make of that what you will.

resolutions for 2015:
-host at least two shows this year (art/fibre/performance)
-finally get my half-sleeve…i've been planning it for five years now
-dance more often
-cultivate the openness i felt at my residency last summer
-do more residencies
-collaborate with inspiring people
-learn the ukulele? (this one is dependent on when i get úlfur back)
-indulge in all aspects of food - the growing, the prep, the eating, even the clean-up
-do things that make me happy, and reevaluate things that don't
-listen to my gut
-continue playing with and learning about natural dyes
-find the ritual in the everyday
-work on my photography skills
-escape to the woods more often
-fix up my website and actually keep it up-to-date
-get better at grant writing
-love my feet (this is an ongoing process)
-learn to drive…again

and now, because knitting resolutions are also important for my practice, here are my fibre-based resolutions for this year:
-design and release a minimum of 12 knitting patterns (equivalent to one per month, but i won't hold myself to that strict of a schedule)
-find time somewhere to do some selfish knitting, preferably in the form of sweaters (hana hou and lila come to mind, especially given that i have yarn specifically for them in my stash)
-release at least two collections this year - when nature fought back and a baby mini-collection are on the docket
-design a full-sized garment with grading
-get to a point where i am consistently at least breaking even financially with patterns and dyeing
-work through my stash - use at least 50% of it by the end of the year (without replacing 200%), and regularly look into destashing what no longer inspires me

p.s. i'm back at yoga AND got a library card! how great is that?

A photo posted by Ash Alberg (@sunflowerknit) on