The Perks of Making Your Own Clothing

One of my favourite things ever about knitting is that I can re-do a lot of my old projects. Because I know how it’s constructed, I’m able to adjust. “Frogging” is a term for when you unravel a garment, I think because the yarn makes a funny “rrrrrrbbbbbb” sound when you yank on it.

Some people may hate the idea of frogging a project, but I’m kind of okay with it. For example, this bad boy was a cardigan I made a few years back:

Amiga

It was one of the first sweaters I had tried with a seed stitch, along with a few other modifications. It was a great sweater to learn on.

I had also splurged a little on the yarn and bought my first handful of SweetGeorgia Yarn’s Superwash Worsted. I still recall walking into the yarn store for the first time and feeling so excited to purchase “legit yarn.”

But every time I wore it, part of the neck and shoulders didn’t sit right. Perhaps I had modified it too much, or I had missed a few structural elements, but it kept sliding off my shoulders.

I researched all the ways I could possibly fix this; including reinforcing the back neck with single crochet stitches, as well as lining the edges with thicker hemming. I even thought about just knitting the cardigan shut and turning it into a pullover.

In the end, I realized that I was beginning to hate wearing this sweater as much as I had enjoyed making it.

And the very cool thing I realized is that I could just start over.

I didn’t have to give it away to some poor sod who would have to deal with the shitty construction. I didn’t have to feel bad and stuff it in the back of my closet. Best of all, I didn’t need to throw it away.

Another thing to note is the quality of this yarn. Because of my little splurge, the yarn itself held strong over the years, even after a few trips to the washing machine. It didn’t break apart when I frogged it, and neither did the colours really change.

It was like I went yarn shopping inside my closet and found a new addition to my stash.

Awesome, right?!

#AEASea: “The Future of Responsive Typography” by Nick Sherman

If there were two things to take away about Nick Sherman, they were that he liked pizza very much and that he liked to complain. This was how his introduction was prefaced, and there was something fantastic about this man’s grievances.

Here’s the great thing about what we’re doing, which I think is what Nick’s talk helped me realize:

We’re in an industry that has the ability to address dissatisfaction, and we have the means to make these solutions totally universal.

Just take a second to think about that.

If the default calendar app on my phone looks like shit, which it does, I have the means and resources to build a new one for myself. If this Dolly Parton ultimate fan site is not to my satisfaction, I can create an entirely different interface for it and make the woman proud.

And as long as our version of this is out there, as a free reference for another dissatisfied person, he or she can then take it version and make it better. They can take Calendar App V2 and create Calendar App V3. They can make DollyPartonLove.biz it’s own native app.

It’s a world where your concerns are legitimate, as long as you actively address them. Knowledge will always run free, and the only thing to stop you is your own fears and lack of common sense.

How empowering is that?

When responsive web started blowing people’s minds a few years back, I remember having a conversation with my buddy Ross about it and mentioning some slight concerns I had about the effect it had on the fluidity of measures. If the measures of a page are unknown, how do you… what does… golden ratios… Bringhurst, I… how do you catch a cloud and pin it down?

Coming from a print design background, this made me nervous. It was a specific thing, and it seemed nitpicky to pursue it. And I knew that if I did, there was a very huge possibility that it would lead to more bad things to make me nervous and I didn’t want to take that pill. I, the awful coward that I am, decided to stay inside the Matrix.

Because responsive web and fluid grids were so amazing. The hype was REAL, dudes!

And then I ate a sandwich and carried on with my life.

But each time I would think about this idea of fixed type size on fluid measures, I would just kind of groan inwardly. Whenever I would test out my type sizes on websites, I could feel my butt clenching as I saw things break on smaller viewports.

Rivers formed, terrible rags that hurled widowed women and orphaned children off their awful, crooked edges. My paragraphs turned into the Mt. Pinatubo landslides of the 1990s and in my mind I knew there was nothing to be done about it.

I’m not proud of it at all, and I know it makes me look really bad. Like, wearing sweatpants and Uggs kind of bad. But guys, I did it. I compromised the design because I didn’t know how to deal with it.

I was Jodie Foster and I was trapped in that panic room of fluid walls with that chick from Twilight and everything was terrible but I didn’t know what to do.

And suddenly, ideas from people like this pizza man started popping up. Different people from all over the world were discovering new things to try, and setting the world on fire with them. They weren’t all perfect, and a lot of them were in beta mode, but it was there.

Some people were addressing widows and fixing them. Others were looking at resizing type on headlines. Other people cared about this shit as much as (or perhaps even more than) I did!

And it’s like how the cops bust in and everyone starts yelling and everyone has guns pointed and there’s something on my shirt I don’t know if it’s blood or BBQ sauce FLUSH THE WEED, LORNA—it’s mayhem for a moment, and then everyone gets a grip on the situation and then we all start thinking, “Hey, maybe this can work.”

And from this idea of banding together and knowing people who are smarter than you at other things, they made interesting things happen. With Math. And interpolation. And the Pythagorean fucking Theorem. What. The.

Like THIS:

OH GOD THIS WEBPAGE FEELS SO GOOD.
OH GOD THIS WEBPAGE FEELS SO GOOD.

And THIS:

Life size type. YES IT'S RELEVANT.
Life size type. YES IT’S RELEVANT.

Suddenly there is hope. And really, all you need to do is ask. But ask nicely.

Hey, this kind of sucks. Can someone help me make this not awful?

It is this constant dissatisfaction that should really help drive this vehicle. It makes for better work, and helps idiots like me not forget what we went to school for.

So that’s kind of what I wanted to say, Nick Sherman, when I tried to start an awful conversation with you. Thanks for reminding me that it’s okay to be dissatisfied with how things are, even though everything seems amazing. Because that small bit of unease is always a gateway to something even better.


My Plans for the New Year

Trung recently asked me what I intended to do in the upcoming year. A few things are already underway, and others I’ve already decided on. But as is the time of reflection and resolutions, I suppose it’s appropriate to make yet another list.


JavaScript—the Reckoning!

I fully intend to create a working app by the end of 2014. Well, really, by mid-2014 would be great.

Getting over humps and bumps of resistance for this will require a lot of patience and discipline, and it’s going to be awesome.

Right now I am thinking of making this knit-centric. Like a simple gauge calculator that I can use to help me make sense of the math for when I want to swap out a different yarn for a specific project. If anything, it will also really help me with my math skills. Because I have none.


Homelifes, Decorating, Furniture

After three and a half years, I suppose it’s time to come clean. I have really come to dislike my furniture.

I’ve inherited most of this furniture from the original owners of my current apartment. And while I’m grateful, I think it’s time to take that step up and finally make decisions based on what I would like, rather than what is convenient.

Last year, I found myself getting rid of my university furniture, shedding off memories of being dumb and young. Well now I’m just dumb, really, but I like to think I was a little bit dumber back then. Items that will ring truth in every young twenty-somethings’ ears: futon, Ikea, cheap computer table, Ikea, folding couch, etc.

Speaking of Ikea, I’ve just traded my last vestige of cheap university life for a more solid structure. Still Ikea, but like, one step up from “that table” that everyone knows:

This year, I’d like to look forward to pieces that have a bit more of a story and effort from me.

I have 2 simple projects lined up:

A wooden bench piece with hairpin legs.

And this bitchin’ daybed that my buddy Ben and I are going to be building together.

The daybed will be more work, obviously, but the possibility of creating a custom piece that I can control sounds so amazing to me. It will come in two pieces that come apart, and we have plans to build it out of pine kill lumber, which I think is a beautiful wood.


More Crafting!

I’ve gone on a full knitting rage these last few months, and I don’t intend to stop there. Fiona and Amanda have totally inspired me to test more waters, and I will be pushing through with more sewing projects as well.

This book will come out of the woodwork (I purchased it a few months ago) and I will be working hard to make some really awesome garments and homewares.

 

As a side note as well, I’ve made a resolution to stop buying yarn and finish off this giant stash that I have somehow accumulated over the course of a few months. Seriously. My yarn drawer is barfing yarn right now.

I think these three major things will be a great start to the year. I’m looking forward to 2014!

What Knitting Has Taught Me About Quality and Patience

For the last two weeks, I have been trying to knit this Jane Richmond pullover.

Jane Richmond Gemini
Even this picture of Jane Richmond seems unimpressed with my shirt.

So far, it has not gone well.

All in all, I’ve totalled over six attempts at this damned thing and it’s really started to feel a lot like pushing a boulder up a fucking mountain. Please take a moment with me to actually understand what I just wrote.

I have knitted the same pullover. Six times.

As in, I will knit to a point, realize I’ve made a huge mistake, and then undo all the work I’ve done. And then redo it. Encapsulate this experience and multiply it by six. Times.

Considering that I am still pretty new to this whole thing, I decided to forgive myself for not knowing certain things, like reading or following instructions. Or knowing how to count. Or add. You know, it’s really good to cut yourself some slack sometimes. Hang on let me just make and eat a sad sandwich made of tears and bits of yarn.

At one point, I realized that I had set it up wrong and that I was actually knitting the two sleeves next to each other instead of on either side.

Back when I was even more of an idiot than I am now, I would probably have just gone, “Fuck this I’m blowing through this shit I’LL WEAR THE SWEATER WITH MY ARMS HANGING SIDEWAYS,” and would have kept going until I was done the whole thing. To be honest, I was tempted to do it again. I kept going for a few more rows and tried to fix or fudge my way through the ass-parts of the pullover. And then I stopped being stupid.

The main difference now is that I know what the consequences of this way of thinking brings.

I’ve done a similar lace pattern in the past, and while I knew that the stitches were starting to go to shit, I believed in my heart that my sweater would turn out fine, just like in the picture.

Suffice to say, it did not look like the picture.

Maybe here is a way to describe what it looked like—

Imagine Dorian Gray opening the door to his attic, and seeing the decrepit portrait of his terrible, awful, monstrous soul.

Now imagine his likeness wearing this sweater that I made.

That is how bad this sweater was.

One of the tougher things I find about knitting is that I don’t quite know what it will look like in the end yet. There is no preview button when it comes to knitting. You’d think the picture of the model wearing it would be enough, but those are all lies. LIES.

So once it’s done, and I see a tiny knot or a mistake actually WOVEN into this shit, really, it’s enough for me to flip a table and throw my TV out the window.

The immediate possibility of this scenario happening, as well as thinking about how much I spend on yarn (and how much I spent on that TV)… it all just adds up to me having to suck it in and strive on. Or commit a murder.

Similar to when I am coding websites, knitting can be just frustrating and time-consuming. The little mistakes you make eventually add up and things can spin a bit out of control. And the more you ignore it, the worse it really gets.

I’d say it was also similar to how I was approaching a lot of my projects in school/life. The idea where the end result didn’t matter, as long as you get to the end. While that may be true in some cases, I don’t think we really talk about how the aftermath of that feels. The scene always ends with the sigh of relief, but then after that, what really happens? Right?

If I had gone on with this shitty version of a pullover, I would have probably finished it, for sure, but then I would never have worn it either. That reminds me of another shirt I had just finished. It turned out great. But it’s about twice my size.

While I’m proud of making this awesome top, I don’t wear it because Trung and I can probably fit inside it and do lunges side by side at the same time.

I guess I’ve basked in the glory of finishing the pattern correctly. But now maybe it’s time to undo this sweater and knit it again properly so I can actually wear it, which was the original point of making a garment, really.

(Wait a minute… this means I need to re-do two fucking sweaters. Oh, great.)

Let the payoff speak for your efforts. This way of thinking then keeps me from being lazy. Not just physically, but mentally. It’s way harder to accomplish something when you’ve already checked out.

And I like that I am starting to see things this way. I feel like I am getting a better hold of how I should do things, and I like the idea that when I finish something, I don’t need to accept the fact that it is shitty.

Of course I shall need a few minutes to prepare and eat an angry sandwich and possibly cry into a plastic bag first. But after that, I can do it again, arm myself with the experience, and make it the way I want. Once I recognize the failure and find out the cause, starting back up again is just that much easier, that much faster. The mistake gets recorded in your brain, and muscle memory kicks in.

Suddenly I am not so scared to screw up.

I guess my point in all of this is that sometimes (not always), maybe effort is not enough. I think it’s important to keep moving towards a different standard, and constantly redefine what “enough” is. Because if it’s always judged at the minimum, then we all just go home with participation trophies and drink juice. We never get to change anything or make a difference. And I end up with a shitty sweater with both sleeves on one side.

Dale Chihuly

I went to visit my friend Rada in Seattle last weekend, and we went to see the new Chihuly exhibit near the Space Needle. Really nice work. I told Trung about the show when I got back, and his only reaction was, “Oh, the one-eyed guy?”

Beautiful work, really. It was like stepping into Willy Wonka’s factory at some points, and I found myself with my mouth agape a couple of times. That doesn’t happen often. Mainly because I don’t go to art shows very much.

Here are some photos of the show!