A new mosaic bag

I’m sorry if you thought this blog died. It did not. As always, the beginning of the school year was crazy and I just couldn’t stay awake at night to write a blog post. It really doesn’t matter because I didn’t have a lot of news about my knitting and crochet to write about, anyway. Now that my schedule has reached a normal level of school year activity and my email and phone are back to their quiet selves it’s time to report on what I’m up to.

One of the things I did during the crazy start to teaching this year was permit myself some online yarn shopping therapy. I’ll talk about that later in another post because I’ve already cast on a project with the yarn I bought.

Another thing I did was finish a knitting project. I’m not sure if anyone remembers, but a while back I posted a sample of mosaic knitting I finished and I said I was figuring out what I could do with that square. Well, the answer came to me when a friend of mine and I agreed to make bags for each other. The colors are totally her (bright neon yellow, pink, and orange). So, I got busy on making another mosaic square. Then, I knit the squares together, gave the bag a cylindrical shape by applying a round bag bottom to it, and finished the top off with some fagoting and an icord. I had some canvas fabric that matched the colors perfectly so I lined the shoulder strap and the bag body with that. And here it is in all its finished glory:

Readers with really good memories might be able to guess that I based my work on my Spare Pocket bag pattern. The only things I did differently were: 1) make it a bucket-style bag by adding a circle to the bottom instead of a thin rectangle; 2) make a drawstring closure for it.

My friend lives in Madrid so in the coming weeks we’ll meet up and do our exchange. I can’t wait to see how the one she worked on came out. I’ll love it because I know that it will be rag crochet.

It’s great to be back and blogging again. Happy knitting and crocheting!

It’s hard to make a living

Have you seen the new hash tag? It’s #fairfiberwage. Designers who teach classes are publicly rebelling against unnamed organizations that do not pay their teachers fairly. I’m not going to link to any of the blog posts about this because you, dear reader, can Google the hash tag. Also, I don’t really feel like giving these authors any publicity. “Why?” you may ask. Well, it’s just that becoming productive, working human beings exposes us all to risks, especially when we decide to become self-employed or run our own small businesses. Furthermore, I feel like all the chatter about this distracts from something much bigger and much more important than fiber artists and designers and the money they make: Everyone deserves the dignity of a fair wage.

I suppose this is why, off and on, I have considered giving up blogging. It might seem absolutely wonderful that anybody with an Internet connection and a computer can just publish whatever they think or feel about absolutely anything, but there is another side to social media and the “everybody is a journalist, everybody is an author” trend: It can truly make the world seem totally contaminated with “me-itis.” Just think, even this blog is mostly an exhibition of aspects about me that I want to show off. Just about every post is saying to you: “look at what I made!” On the other hand, I don’t drone on and on about how special I think I am, or how I think you should think I’m just so super-duper, and I don’t rant. I most certainly do not see myself as unique enough to just go on and on about my uniqueness. I mean, I think I have some individual qualities that are great and stand out, but why should you care?

Anyway, the first problem I have with the fiber teachers’ ranting is the fact that they want to make their customers responsible for their earnings. That’s not how the world works. These teachers, who are mostly designers, are often self-employed business people. It’s as if they wanted to turn their decision to run their own businesses into the consumers’ problem and not their own. There’s also an idea floating around there about how craft festivals and conferences should start using a labeling system to publicize that they’re paying their teachers a fair wage. I just don’t see that as productive because then everybody would have to get into a discussion about what wages could be fair and, yet again, it puts the responsibility on the consumers’ shoulders, beholding them to basically enter some sort of “contract” with the services they are buying, adding some sort of extra value that the consumer does not actually benefit from. Also, labeling practices just turn into another way for employers to abuse their employees in the end, legitimizing their bad ways. Companies and organizations do all sorts of things to get that label even though the label is a bit of a lie. Besides, the world of self-employment gives the worker absolute freedom to decide for herself or himself. As a freelance worker – yes, that’s right, I am also self-employed, as an English teacher, and here in Europe I am exposed to all sorts of exploitative practices that would make your stomach turn – I can accept or decline offers from people at my discretion. If I don’t like the conditions on a contract or the pay is too low for me I smile and say, “Thank you, but I’m not available” and I get on with my work. Why can’t these fiber artists do this? It’s very simple to answer this question: They aren’t taking responsibility for their choices and they are not holding themselves accountable for their own businesses or self-employment. If you own a business or you work for yourself it is your responsibility to find work. It is a risk that you are taking and it could go well or badly, depending on a number of factors, including chance. This is something that the fiber industry seems to forget. In no other area of business have I seen more people trying to lay responsibility on the consumer. They say things like, “If you don’t buy the products they won’t be available in the future because the business won’t survive” and “You should buy independent designers’ patterns because if you don’t support them they won’t be designing in the future.” On the one hand, I think that craft supply companies and related small businesses are super generous to their customers. I am grateful for that. On the other hand, I think knitting and crochet consumers should start pushing back and resisting. If I don’t buy something it’s because I don’t need it or want it. Period. I am under no obligation to buy cute things on Etsy or take a class. That’s how the world works. If we don’t like this system we are just going to have to change the world. In the current system we work for money and in turn we use the money for survival and entertainment. As consumers, we are responsible for ourselves according to the decisions we make with our money. There is nothing more than this. Any other attempt to add value to our consumption is just more of a falsely added value. There is really no such thing as “responsible consumption” in the end. It’s very sad, but it’s really how capitalism works. In capitalism, the only way you can consume responsibly is by surviving with the money you have and/or increasing your capital.

Which brings me to my other point: Why should we, as lovers of craft hobbies, privilege fiber artists in a campaign for fair pay? Why shouldn’t we argue for fair pay for all workers, be they professionals, artists, or unskilled laborers? I believe that back home in the United States it’s just really difficult to survive right now for a huge number of people. There are people working two or three jobs that don’t have enough money to take care of themselves and their families. There are teachers working in public schools who are overworked, exhausted, and not compensated fairly for their work. There are university professors working two part-time jobs at two different institutions barely scraping by on $10,000 or $12,000 a year (or even less!). There are cashiers, waiters and waitresses, and other retail workers who can’t make ends meet because the federal minimum wage hasn’t been raised in eons and there is no law to ensure that companies have full-time workers. My beef, you see, with these blog rants about how festivals and fiber craft events aren’t offering their teachers a fair amount of money is the fact that they are not the only ones suffering from unfair labor practices. Unfair wages and labor practices run rampant through all sectors of the job market. Let’s fix that problem and then, when it is in fact fixed, we’ll see that maybe more people in general, and even fiber arts teachers, will have more opportunities to receive fair pay because we can’t buy craft classes, luxury yarn, indie dyed yarn, indie patterns, organic tea and yarn gift boxes, kits for KALs and CALs, and all those other baubles if we don’t have enough money to buy them with. Furthermore, this is a luxury thing, an extra thing that we can buy, it comes after paying rent (or mortgage), lights, gas, food, clothing, etc. Let’s have more people working and receiving a fair wage so they can afford to have nice things like knitting and crochet supplies, fiber arts classes, and all those crafty treats.

I encourage all fiber arts teachers to continue to strive to make changes within their profession. I most certainly hear them! It’s really tough to make a living and there are so many organizations and companies that are making it harder with their unfair labor practices. But also, they need to start fighting for their fellow workers in society. Their fellow workers buy their stuff, after all, and the more people with money to spend the more stuff the fiber professionals can sell. Additionally, it just looks self-centered to complain about an individual problem in a world where workers everywhere are exploited, disrespected, and mistreated. Let’s not forget that women are paid less than men in a vast majority of professions even though they have the same qualifications. All of this fiber artists’ outrage, in fact, smacks of a total lack of compassion for other people who are having similar experiences, just in a different profession or job, because it’s too focused on arguing about why their problems as workers are unique and special when, in fact, they are absolutely not.


No knitting to blog about

I am so totally not knitting. Every once in a while this week I’ve knit a few rounds on a vanilla sock but that’s about it. It isn’t about my mood. I’m definitely in the mood to knit, but I’ve got all projects with wool casted on and the weather is over 100 degrees F every day. This is quite an unusual September. I know that many of you think that Spain is just a warm and sunny place but it really isn’t. Only in the south and on the islands does it feel mostly warm all year round. In the center and northwest of this country we have the typical four seasonal changes, with cooler temperatures in Autumn and even some snow in Winter. Anyway, we’ve basically been experiencing a heat wave that has lasted all of August and is continuing into September. According to the weather forecast it isn’t going to cool off until Thursday! I’m going to have to get crocheting on my cotton doily or cast on something with a summery type of yarn if I decide to get crafty again. Considering that my issue with knitting and crocheting in hot weather is the uncomfortable feeling of sweaty hands, I’ll probably just wait until the weather gets back to normal.

In other news, I got a new computer which was long overdue. Many of the die-hard Apple fans may gasp in horror but this time around I decided to abandon Apple computers in favor of buying a laptop with Windows pre-installed. Of course, when I got the computer home the first thing I did was install Ubuntu Linux on it. So, strangely enough, I can provide some advice about doing this kind of thing if you are tired of Apple and Microsoft like I am.

As a side note, my decision to not upgrade to another Apple computer was based on this: Apple makes absolutely certain that even though your computer works you won’t be able to update its software after it’s five years old. My white Macbook celebrated its eighth birthday this year with a very old version of OS X. Of course, it was becoming pretty useless as most software and web browsing was not working correctly (or not supported).

Linux is a good alternative to Apple because both Linux and OS X derive from the same operating system, Unix. That was actually the reason why I had switched from Microsoft to Apple a thousand years ago. Essentially, I’m a total nerd and I have been using the Terminal to type commands on the command line for years on OS X and all those commands are basically the same on Linux.

The best part about this switch, though, is that it has cost me absolutely nothing to get all the stuff I need to get working on this computer. The Office programs and just about every other thing you can imagine are absolutely free. I have had zero problems transferring my files from one computer to the other because all the files are either convertible or readable. What really surprised me was that I can even sync my iPad and my iPhone on Linux.

And that is all I have to report on this week. To those of you who are enjoying all the cool breezes and the over early pumpkin spice everything: Enjoy! :-)t



Evergreen Aran (just once more)

About ten years ago I knitted Kristin Nicholas’s “Evergreen Aran” sweater from the Classic Elite pattern book Knitting the New Classics. When I casted it on it was going to be for me but then I met my partner and I let him have the sweater. He wears it every winter.

So now it’s finally my turn to have this sweater! I started it last week and so far, this is my progress:

better gray cable sweater

It’s going to take a while but I’ve got this under control! I’ve made it before, after all!

WIP: “Elegant Pineappe” by Patricia Kristoffersen

I started crocheting Patricia Kristoffersen’s “Elegant Pineapple” doily a few months ago. Today I’ve returned to it to add another round to it. I think it’s coming along nicely although it’s evolving slowly:

elegant pineapple

It will certainly look better when I finish it and block it but for now this is what I’ve got to share with you. The designer intended the doily to be larger but I opted for a slightly finer crochet cotton thread than what the pattern calls for: it’s size 12 instead of 10 (the latter being the famous “bedspread” weight). This is my first time working with Anchor crochet thread and I love it. This particular line is called “Freccia” and I think the reason why it feels so good to crochet with it is because it’s a three-ply thread.

The pattern comes from the Leisure Arts book Absolutely Gorgeous Doilies and, as you might guess from the photo and also from previous blog posts here, it’s yet another collection of Kristoffersen’s doily patterns with interesting front and back post work in the center. Of course, not all of the doilies in this book have that kind of center for the doilies, but a lot of them do. The center circle of this doily looks really complex but in reality it’s quite simple to crochet. The hard part of this doily is counting correctly on the larger, outer rounds!

When all else fails: Stick it out the window

These days are pretty gloomy. The lack of sunlight is really doing quite the number on my photographs of my knitting. I of course have another FO to discuss, but first let us appreciate the colors in this skein of Opal sock yarn, which after several failed attempts at being photographed, finally found itself stuck out the window for better lighting and, therefore, finer color accuracy:

Photo Aug 17, 11 23 02 AM

I love this yarn and I think it’s one of my favorite brands of self-striping yarn. This skein has different shades of blue, brown, gray, purple, and red. I’m about to cast on a sock with it right now!

If you’re curious about the colorway and my downstairs neighbor’s garden, here you go:

Photo Aug 17, 11 21 44 AM

I’m starting a new pair of socks because I finished my toe-up rainbow socks. They fit my feet wonderfully. Check them out:

Photo Aug 17, 11 09 08 AM

I made these socks two-at-a-time. I’ve definitely changed my sock knitting habits, which from now on are going to be determined by how the sock yarn is sold. If the skeins are sold so that one skein is enough for one sock, I’ll knit my socks toe-up and two-at-a-time. If the one skein is enough to knit a complete pair I’ll knit them cuff-down on tiny circular needles. Obviously, the next socks I’m knitting are going to be cuff-down on mini circs because Opal sells the yarn in big skeins.

Finished: Star Motif Sweater

I finished the vintage Fair Isle sweater for my partner’s Christmas gift. I’m sure it will look great on him when he finally wears it, but until then we’ll just have to admire it on the blocking rack, with very unfortunate lighting (yes, the main color is all the same, but the way the sunlight reflects on it it looks like it gets darker as you go down the sweater):

Photo Aug 16, 9 59 23 AM

I first blogged about this a while ago and in that post you can find the link to the pattern if you’re interested.