Polka Dot Bolero by Wendy Bernard

Well I am LONG overdue for some blog updates, so here we go! Prepare for a slew of new posts today 🙂

I got the pattern for this Polka Dot Bolero  from Up, Down, All-Around Stitch Dictionary, one of my first knitting book purchases. I bought it as a new knitter to help me learn some new stitches, but I was head over heels in love with this bolero as soon as I saw it. But it was way too advanced for me at that point, so I waited for just the right time. After I made my first sweater over the holidays, I decided to give this one a go 🙂

The beginnings :)
The beginnings 🙂

This was such a joy to make! I loved the top-down construction and I used the suggested Blue Sky Fibers Melange and loved that also. It was my first time working with Sport Weight yarn and it took a bit of practice, but really enjoyed it once I got the hang of it. It’s so soft! I’m totally a sucker for baby alpaca wool <3

The best kind of Saturday :)
The best kind of Saturday 🙂

I had to size up in needles as I’ve learned that I’m a tight knitter, so I do that with just about every pattern now.

The only trouble I really had was a misread of the directions that ended up making the wrap way shorter than it was supposed to have been. I think it was a part in the pattern that called for an increase on every other right side row and I thought at first it mean to increase on every right side row, as is typical, but it also sounded like not every right side row, but every other. I tried looking at the finished length of the garment and it looked like the shorter version was the way to go. But…I was wrong. So I finished the whole thing and everything and even wore it to work and it kept riding up on me. I was in denial for a little bit but it just didn’t feel right. So I took off the waist tie, undid the cast off edge, and added about 2 more inches to it and felt MUCH more comfortable with the length.

Making progress...
Making progress…

Then of course, I had to add to the finishing of the front edge and at the moment when I just HAD to get it done I didn’t have the smaller needle size with me, so there’s a teeny portion on the front edge that’s slightly bigger stitching than the rest. *Sigh*

Still love this though and wear it so often and get so many compliments when I do 🙂 It’s also a great beginning sweater project since it’s so short.

Love love love so much!
Love love love so much!

I made my first sweater!

It feels like a milestone that I finally finished knitting my first sweater! I started it about two months ago in late October, but didn’t work on it consistently since I was juggling numerous other knitting and sewing projects. But FINALLY, I finished last night 🙂

I had taken a look at a number of sweater patterns, but it just seemed so confusing since this wasn’t as straightforward as a smaller project. Some were constructed top-down, some bottom-up, and I couldn’t even begin to wrap my head around how all the different pieces came together. So I had toyed with the idea of taking a sweater class at Imagiknit or Atelier Yarns, but they weren’t offered very regularly and didn’t always work with my schedule.

Then, I came across this tutorial from KnitPicks: Nina’s Design Your Own Sweater Class! What made this tutorial a great first sweater project is that it not only had a step-by-step video series, but also had blog posts with worksheets attached to each step. It walked you through taking all the calculations for your measurements with easy-to-follow number crunching. I’m so glad I found it!

Starting the torso at a conference in Phoenix. Great opportunity to get a lot of knitting done!
Starting the torso at a conference in Phoenix. Great opportunity to get a lot of knitting done!

Even still, I hit a number of road blocks along the way. The sweater is constructed bottom-up in the round, so it was easy enough (just time-consuming) to knit the torso and sleeves in separate pieces. Then came the tricky part…

Starting the sleeve was exciting. Looks so cute here! :)
Starting the sleeve was exciting. Looks so cute here! 🙂

How do you join the sleeves and the torso?? This part actually wasn’t shown in the tutorial, and it was a completely foreign concept to me. It felt like such a big undertaking too that it was hard to mentally prepare myself for figuring out how to do it. So it sat in the floor for a couple days while I finished sewing a dress 🙂 Eventually though I solved the mystery by piecing together different YouTube videos. Phew!

Torso and first sleeve done. Starting to look like a sweater!
Torso and first sleeve done. Starting to look like a sweater!

But then, there was shaping the yoke and also the neckline at the same time, taking into account the ribbed neckline I wanted to add. So I took it one step at a time and slowly chipped away at the 38 rounds to make it to the top and decreased the correct amount of stitches, which was complicated by needing to somehow switch to knitting flat after knitting in the round. How does that work??! I was thrown off by that and had to set the project aside for a day. I mean, I knew I couldn’t continue knitting in the round after binding off the first stitches for the neckline, as it suddenly had 2 ends, but it still didn’t make sense to me. Finally, I found an online forum with someone asking the exact same question for the exact same project! Sigh of relief!

Sleeves and body joined, yoke and neckline starting to take shape.
Sleeves and body joined, yoke and neckline starting to take shape.

The last major obstacle was adding the ribbed neckline at the top by picking up stitches. I’d kept hearing the phrase “pick up stitches” but I had never done it before. Luckily, there are several YouTube videos that explain this clearly, and it’s actually pretty simple. Then, just weave in the ends and…

The finished product! Knitted with Malabrigo Chunky in black.
The finished product! Knitted with Malabrigo Chunky in black.

Ta-da! All done!!

Overall, I’m very happy with it 🙂 It’s slightly shorter than I imagined it to be, and I wish I had used smaller needles on the ribbed neckline to make it a little neater (or perhaps use a better bind off method). But STILL very exciting 🙂

One fun fact I just realized is how many places this sweater has traveled so far while I was working on it: Phoenix, San Francisco, Sequoia National Park, the DC area, and now the Chicago area. And many flights on top of that!

I’m already looking at sweater patterns and can’t wait to start the next one!


Challenges and Frustrations with Starting an Etsy Shop

A couple months ago, I reached a goal I’d been working towards for about the last year: I opened an Etsy shop! I started knitting about a year ago now, and built up my skills over the last several months, learning something new with each item I made. And then finally, I opened up my Etsy shop in October :).

I started out with just four items because as you can imagine, it takes time and money to knit things! And my photographer friend has been taking the (beautiful!) product photos for me, so I coordinated with her schedule and worked out a day for her to trek out to this side of the Bay. Once we did our first session, I wanted to knit several more things before we arranged another time for her to come out for another photo shoot.

I aimed to have 5 more items Etsy-ready for our second shoot, but the 60 inch long infinity scarf I made took way longer than I had anticipated. And then came Election Day, so…you know… And then I had just a couple days left before our shoot, and I only had 2 things done. I was making good progress on my third product, but then I decided to buy the original color yarn I wanted, rather than the ombre shade that I had gotten online. I just wanted it to be perfect, so I thought it was worth it.

And I am glad I got the color I wanted. But I ended up staying up until 4:00am that night finishing up the product before my friend Alex came to photograph. And it was Thanksgiving weekend and the new Gilmore Girls episodes had just come out! I hadn’t felt that tired struggling to meet a deadline since grad school (nor do I want to repeat that any time soon). I’m happy with how the product turned out, but I actually had envisioned the measurements to be quite different…I just didn’t take the time to knit a gauge swatch when I really should have (lesson learned!).

But I’ve had some good news since then! I’ve made 2 sales, I’ve been re-posted on Instagram by SF Etsy (the Bay Area Etsy team), and I was invited to do a craft show (which I can’t attend), and my friend Gwynessa and I are planning a pop-up craft show in the Mission at the end of January. Small steps :).

I am itching for more though, and wishing I could already have a shop with a wide selection of items ready to go, and enough of an inventory to participate in the holiday craft fairs. But I’m not quite there yet. And I’ve started and almost finished knitting 2 more items recently that I’ve had to undo for various reasons. AND it’s the holidays and adding expensive yarn to my list of things to buy adds up quickly.

On top of knitting for Etsy, I’m also knitting some gifts and making a sweater (my first one!) for myself, and then there are my endless sewing projects.  There’s just not enough time for everything!

I thinking I’ll feel better once I get a couple more things up on Etsy. Until then it’s just relishing the small successes 🙂

How Knitting and Sewing Have Helped My Mental Health <3

A couple years ago I stumbled upon a beginner’s knitting kit at a Barnes & Noble around the holidays. It was on sale and looked like a fun project to start while I had some time off from work.

Learning a new skill is daunting, and it takes some dedication and patience to really get started. So, not surprisingly, it was a few weeks before I even opened the kit. Much to my dismay, it didn’t include any instructions for actually learning how to knit. Instead, it came with a booklet of some patterns. I had no idea what any of it meant!

So I decided to refer to Youtube for video tutorials for casting on and learning the basic stitches. And I was hooked! I was giddy with excitement for learning something new, and was proud of completing even the most simple tasks. I carried my needles and orange practice yarn with me wherever I went, making nothing in particular but simply enjoying the movements of knitting.

But soon eager to make something super cool, I was dead set on learning how to knit the waffle stitch. Unfortunately it was too much too soon, and I just couldn’t get it. Frustrated, I eventually lost interest in knitting for several months.

Last fall though, I came back to knitting with renewed energy and more patience. I took things step by step and gradually built my skills by working on projects with increasing difficulty, but careful not to get too far ahead of myself. And I was hooked yet again! This time, I think it will last 🙂

I was very crafty as a child, but I somehow got away from it as I got older. I used to be chock full of DIY projects: hand sewing pillows, making pencil holders, making magazine holders. I even made a doll house, complete with handmade furniture, out of cardboard!

Once I started knitting again last fall, I feel like I tapped into my childhood energy and enthusiasm/obsession for creativity. The more I knitted, the more I wanted to knit. And I was itching to learn even more! Last winter I bought a sewing machine and took a couple sewing classes, and now I’m sewing clothes for myself too.

I’ve never really thought of myself as artsy or creative, but there’s a real art to creating patterns, combining colors,  selecting yarn and fabric, and naming/describing my Etsy products. The possibilities are endless and the world is a blank canvas waiting to be painted in whatever strokes and colors I choose.

And this creativity instills a new confidence in me. I’ve struggled with depression in the past, and anxiety remains a daily battle for me. I’ve had periods of deep depression for as long as a year at a time. The kind of depression when your whole body aches and it takes so much strength just to get out of bed in the morning. When you can’t bring yourself to eat, and when you find yourself alone every single day, alone with your irrational worries, and relieved when the day is finally over.

But it’s been almost 8 years now since I’ve been hit with a depression like that. I slowly started taking more control of my life: I got into the graduate program I wanted and moved to beautiful Madison; met the love of my life; spent a year living in the incomparable Turkey; moved to beautiful San Francisco where adventures are always awaiting; got a job that is deeply fulfilling and is so connected to the core of who I am; started seeing a therapist; surrounded myself with friends who always have my back. And now I have my crafting to keep my mind occupied and that above all, helps me feel like I have a talent.

Crafting has become my latest building block of resiliency, adding to a wall that is getting increasingly higher as time goes on. As BrenĂ© Brown mentions in “The Gifts of Imperfection,” we have the tendency to become anxious and fearful when we feel happy about something, for fear of losing it. But the trick is actually to relish the good times, because holding on to that is what will get us through the inevitable tough times that are to come. <3

I opened an Etsy shop!

Ever since I started knitting obsessively about a year ago, I have been talking about opening up an Etsy shop. I thought I could give myself about a year to get some practice and skills under my belt, and planned to launch this fall (2016), in time for the busy holiday shopping season. And last weekend, I finally launched!

Check out my shop here: www.etsy.com/shop/AnisaJahan

As I’m sure is the case with most crafters, I got so busy knitting gifts for family and friends that I could hardly find the time to devote to knitting things to sell. But over Labor Day weekend this year, I caught up with a friend in DC who had recently begun making her own jewelry and also had plans to open an Etsy shop! We excitedly brainstormed ideas for our respective shops: names, prices, marketing strategies, etc. We set a deadline for a launch date (early October), and also agreed to keep each other posted on our progress. Having a friend going through the same process made it even more fun! (Check out Whitney’s shop here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/MinimalistElegance)

To launch by early October, I had a lot to do in a short period of time. Thankfully, lots of friends gave me some great advice. One who previously had an Etsy shop recommended this book: The Handmade Marketplace. I actually haven’t even finished it yet, but it’s full of great tips for launching a business of handmade items. Another friend has been coming up with great ideas for marketing and promoting my listings. And yet another friend, who is a photographer, offered to do a photo shoot of my products!

Last weekend, my photographer friend and I got together to photograph my items. I had been wanting to learn more about photography anyway, so it worked out perfectly! And now I know a little more about fiddling around with my own camera for the future.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at our photo shoot:

Perfecting the display of the Tahoe Blue Hat
Perfecting the display of the Tahoe Blue Hat (Photo credit: Alex Orozco)
My sweets adjusting my bangs 🙂 (Photo credit: Alex Orozco)

We thought it would be helpful to not only have photos of the items laying flat, but also some photos of me modeling them as well. As you can see with my recent posts, I’ve gotten my feet wet with modeling outfits, so I didn’t mind modeling my knits at all.

I’m starting out with four listings on my shop, but I will soon have more up, since I knit just about every day :). After I get a few more items completed, my friend and I plan to do another photo shoot.

While opening the shop alone was a huge personal success, it also symbolizes so much more for me…stay tuned for my next post describing how crafting has helped improve my mental health.


Simple Wool Knit Beanie

Almost immediately after finishing the chain link slouch beanie, I decided to knit a hat for my brother’s birthday. He’s not much into fashion and likes only wearing very simple things, so I tried to find a very basic hat with no “fancy” stitches that would be too much for him 🙂

I chose this lettuce knit bulky hat from Love Knitting. This was a quick knit, and I finished knitting everything except the the very end on a cross-country plane trip:


I didn’t have scissors or my darning needle with me on the plane (obviously!), so I quickly finished this after I got home:

Finished product!
Finished product!

The yarn I used was Rowan Big Wool (100% Merino Wool) purchased from Imagiknit in San Francisco. I used US 13 16in circular needles, and US 13 double-pointed needles to shape the crown.

This uses the stockinette stitch all the way through, so it is easy to do fairly mindlessly. Without a brim, the end rolls up a bit.

Next up, bootcuffs! 🙂

Waffle knit hat <3

I’ve been knitting for about 8 months now, and with each new project I’m learning new skills. Learning how to knit a hat sounded intimidating at first since it involves double-pointed needles, but with a little patience and practice I’ve mastered it!

I decided to go with this bulky waffle hat pattern on Ravelry. As usual, I got my yarn from Imagiknit in San Francisco 🙂 I chose an off-white yarn that required the same size needles mentioned in the pattern, US 10 (circular and double-pointed).

As the pattern calls for, I did a 2 x 2 rib stitch for about 2 inches, and then a waffle stitch until the piece from the cast on edge measured about 7 inches. Then I started shaping the crown (with double-pointed needles)!

Shaping the crown
Shaping the crown

And soon enough…

Bulky waffle knit hat
Bulky waffle knit hat

…the finished product!

I decided to fold up the brim of the hat, otherwise it’s too long to wear unless it slouches a little at the top. Still looks cute though 🙂