Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

Chemo Knitting

April 20, 2012

It has been a long time since I have posted. In November I was diagnosed with  breast cancer. While tired from Chemo I am really doing very well. For those who don’t know, I have no hot spots and it looks to be early. I have been very fortunate.

With this of course I have done less designing as I have been tired. My thoughts have been fuzzy and my mind has not wanted to work. I have admittedly wanted nurturing. You may know someone with cancer yourself that you want to knit something for but feel at a loss as to know what to say, what to do, what to knit.

From my experience, and everyone is going to be different, I have needed both normal everyday living and understanding as to where I am at. Nurturing without being defined by it. Yes I have cancer but it does not define who I am. I am not suddenly craving pink ribbons on everything. Your loved one may, as I said everyone is different. What I appreciated was being asked if someone wasn’t sure what I would like. I also liked just getting nurturing things that focused on me as a women.

Things that didn’t scream you poor cancer patient. I decided at the beginning I am not a cancer victim, I am someone who has cancer yes. But I am not a victim.

I still knit what I love, and my step daughter has knit me some hats. I do have a beautiful wig but I am not afraid to go out bald either. I put on some makeup and some beautiful earrings and smile as I always do. There is so much beauty in the world, so much to be happy about and thankful for.

In the end I find that chemo knitting for me is little different than regular knitting. Why do we knit for others? We love them. We nurture them by giving them something that is uniquely part of ourselves and them, linked together by  the works of our hands and the bond of our hearts. We choose yummy fibers and things we love to do this. In the end, isn’t that what anyone going through something needs? A little love, a little nurturing?

While it is admittedly traumatic for a woman to loose her hair (it is hard for me too) I have to be honest. I hate most chemo hates because to  me they  scream “I am hiding no hair!” because they just don’t look like regular hats. I would much prefer a really great hat that is just fabulous, than a hat that just hides my head. Our loved ones don’t love us for our hair. And we shouldn’t love ourselves for our hair either.

Practical considerations on yarn if you are knitting a hat for someone going through chemo: chemo can through a woman into menopause. Temporary or permanent. If she is borderline on being pre-menopausal she has very good chances at permanent menopause caused by the chemo. She will have abrupt hot flashes caused by her body trying to balance it’s temperature. Use fine gauge yarns for best comfort. Like  sock yarns. Worsted weight for indoor use as a hat is in my opinion a waste. It will be way too hot.

As far as fiber, a newly bald head can be very  sensitive. Use very soft yarns. Hold yarns to your inner wrist or cheek, or back of your neck. If it is prickly the hat will come off. If it is too warm, the  hat will come off. It is great to have a nice soft lightweight hat to sleep in when you need it too, again soft soft soft. If the hat is too warm it will make hot flashes worse.

Peace and Knitting, JoLene Treace

p.s. My chemo is just over the halfway point, I have through June yet and then surgery and radiation. Reconstruction when it is all done, I am hoping for a lumpectomy.

Photography and Inspiration

June 21, 2011

I love photography. It is interesting the things that you can capture on film that you may not have noticed when looking at your surroundings, and inspiration abounds for colorways and textures that can be the springboard for interesting designs.It helps me appreciate things on a simple level, for the beauty present in our day-to-day lives that we take for granted or the humor that we can miss.

by JoLene Treace, Kristmen's Design Studio, all rights reserved.

I have had many photographs that have made me chuckle over the years of animals I have taken when shooting for design inspiration later, as they have their quirky personalities just like people do.

This little guy is so cute. I know he looks grumpy or sad…perhaps he didn’t get enough treats today.

I love the textures in this picture, aside from the appeal of the monkey itself. You have the texture of the fur contrasted with the texture of the log which is quite interesting.

The colors are beautiful too, and show how fantastic neutrals with a punch of color can be. This would make an earthy and interesting colorway for a fairisle or other stranded knitting garment. Black, offwhite, greys, shell pink, and the gold to rust colors.

As with most of the animals I photograph, this one was snapped at a zoo…our local zoo, the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo. It is a wonderful zoo and I love to go there and photograph the animals and the flowers.

I hope you find inspiration in your day from little things as well as unexpected places.

Peace and Knitting, JoLene Treace

Knitting Relationships

June 21, 2011

My recent adventures at TNNA for the summer show reminded me about the appeal knitting has in many ways beyond the fiber itself. To me knitting is about relationships. You have a relationship with your yarn and the things you create with it. You have a relationship with those in your knitting community…the local yarn stores you go to, the knitting clubs or guilds, and the online knitting communities you frequent. You have a connection to knitters in other cultures and times in history.

I enjoy that connection. I love meeting people and seeing their enthusiasm for their projects, a special yarn, their new product, or a discovered technique. Granted there are some knitters out there that are perhaps not as friendly as one might like or what have you, but by and large the fiber community is filled with warm and friendly people.

It is the warmth in knitting that draws me to it. I have done many creative things over the years, and done them very, very well. Being creative is like breathing for me…I do it without thinking, without ceasing…a drive pushes me forward and it happens without my will, and I cannot stop. I will always do something creative.

But knitting has a warmth to it that draws me to it. The warmth and softness of the yarn as it slips through my fingers as I knit. The relationships I have with the yarns, and the people. It is so portable, too. I can quite literally be creative anywhere, anytime, anyplace. It is soothing to me on many levels.

I hope your world brings you peaceful and soothing moments.

Peace and Knitting….JoLene Treace

Canadian Geese and the Joys of Kntting

August 2, 2010

One thing that amazes me is the amount of email that I receive. I get very little email from knitters with problems, and for that I am thankful. I do work hard at making my patterns easy to follow. Occassionaly there are errors or things just are not explained by me in a way easily understood by that individual. It happens. Once in awhile I get an odd email, like my friend’s puppy ate my copy of your pattern can you send me a new one (this was one that was in a magazine). Recently I received an email from someone who apparently did not care for my using the phrase “Canadian Geese” in my pattern Flying Geese.

Well, where I live that is what we call them. First, I am 25% Norwegian. That alone means I have just a little stubborness. Second, I am from the Midwest. We are very practical here. While I don’t want to offend anyone, really, are there not better things to take pointy sticks to? There are better things to have as a pet peeve, more worthy causes to put our energy into. I prefer to put positive energy into the world around me. If in someone elses part of the world they want to call that goose something else, hey it is their corner of the world to live in they can call it what they want.

For those who are terminally curious, I did find this page regarding the issue. Quite entertaining it was to read too. I really like what they call it in Canada. You’ll have to read the page to see what that is.

We sometimes get wrapped around our needles about things that are not in the end all that important in the big scheme of things. I hope you enjoy the stories and the imagery for what they are, and that you enjoy the world around you equally well. Including your knitting.

Peace and Knitting, JoLene

Knitting Mojo: Getting Your Groove Back

July 19, 2010

I could talk about how my life has been a difficult one for me in many respects over the last couple years, but really how is my life different from anyone else? We all have things in our lives that are stressful, or times in our lives that are just plain rough.

I know knitters handle these periods in their lives in different ways: some turn to difficult projects to absorb and trap their minds. A distraction if you will. Others turn to simple projects that don’t demand more out of them. Others cannot turn to their knitting at all, and are disturbed that the call of needle and yarn has seemingly left them.

We all have times in our lives where burn out can approach. It is important to remember that the things you love are not a chore. And how you handle the things in your life that you do for yourself is completely in your control.

It goes back to knowing what kind of knitter you are and ultimately what is important to you. And not being afraid to give yourself what you need in that moment.

Knitting, as any other way we choose to spend our time or cope with stress, can be very positive (or not a very effective way to cope). It all depends on the choices we make. As in knitting itself it boils down to self-awareness giving us the best choices.

When I feel like my batteries are drained, I like to do things that are creative that don’t have any strings attached to them. Creativity unfettered by constraints of designing for anyone or anything. Gardens, architecture, artwork, nature…these are all things in unrelated media that refresh my creative world. It is hard to create in a vacuum, and looking at others artists work can be very liberating in the flow of thought and ideas. Not to mention just helping to feel centered and connected to what is around me.

I hope, if you are having trouble finding your groove right now, that you are able to feed your soul with what it needs.

Peace and Knitting, JoLene

Book Description: Sneak Peak at From Monkey Island

July 30, 2009

Okay. So I have this idea for a book. All the designs are inspired by animals at the zoo. I have been to a number of them, including the San Diego Zoo, the National Zoo in Washington DC, The Brookfield Zoo, The Cincinnati Zoo, The Detroit Zoo, The Indianapolis Zoo, and my personal favorite, The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo. Oh yes, went to the one in New Orleans too, the year before Hurricane Katrina.

I have enough swatches that should I not do another swatch, I could still produce a steady stream of designs for at least the next 15 years. You think I am joking, I know. Sadly it is no joke. I love to swatch and just don’t have the time to work them all up into designs. I am often inspired by nature and animals in particular, and after awhile I noticed a trend with some of the swatches. I had a little theme going there, and then I thought it would make a fascinating book. Especially if I combined some of what I know about design. It can be really hard when you want to learn about design and other art principles, to find anything that puts it into knitting. I try and do that with my patterns, but a book would give me an opportunity to expand that a bit more.

I am working on my book submission right now. I have not sent it off to the publisher I am sending it to first. I need to finish going through it and finish up a few swatches and double check the illustrations. But I thought you might enjoy reading the book description, which I have included below.

From Monkey Island is a special kind of knitting book.  It is rich in beautiful projects, fresh in inspiration, and instructional beyond the mechanics of how to knit. Knitters talk about their fair isles and other garments also being art, yet often really don’t know what defines them as art. They are shielded and shy away from that culture and its’ resources.

Projects include cabled designs, stranded and other color work, textures, and lace. They are all inspired by animals at zoo’s I have visited. The inspiration of a particular design may be a colorway, a texture, a line of the body of the animal, or something more expressionistic (focused on emotional experience).  There are a wide range of projects for men, women and children. The style is fresh yet classic. Each element is chosen to support the inspiration of the design, and each design tells a story.

The purpose of the book is to provide beautiful projects that are enticing to knit, teach artful design, and encourage the knitter to start seeing the things around them. When we have an understanding of this process we gain the confidence to manipulate the things we work with (color, fiber, texture, stitch pattern, and so on). This greatly enhances the knitting experience and gives us the framework as knitters to defend that  question : What makes it Art?

The intended audience is any knitter who loves beautiful projects that are classic yet stylish, traditional yet fun. Knitters who want more from their knitting. More than mindless. More than utilitarian. More than rushing through to the next project to rush through. They want a richer experience. They want a story. They want passion in their knitting. This book brings all that and more, with its beautiful and inspiring projects and thoughtful discussion.

Hope you enjoyed the sneak peak…

Peace and Knitting, JoLene Treace

In Praise of Kindness

July 27, 2009

I will be honest in telling you there is little knitting related content in this post, although part of it relates to things I have seen in some knitting communities lately that I find disturbing.

I am wondering why, in a day and age when diversity is supposedly celebrated, even flaunted, that TOLERANCE is so lacking. I love communities like Ravelry, and I fully expect online communities like that to have it’s own areas where you have areas that are not as nice or are edgy, gritty, or however you want to term it.  We, the collective we, the cultural we, have this attitude that we are all inclusive and yet there is so much negativity.

Case in point: posts that encourage bitch sessions of the day. Let’s get together and just share our daily bitch. It amazes me how many people get on to just complain and complain and complain.  Can they remember to comment on the person who was kind to them? Can they remember to be kind themselves? People get really steamed about the smallest issues, and then they jump on these really big platforms to share their pet peeves with the world. And they don’t stop to think about the many blessings they have in their lives. No one’s life is going to be perfect. No book is going to be perfect. No experience is going to be perfect. Can your pleasure in it be wonderful? Yes.  Be pissed off about that glass being half empty or be happy it is half full, be depressed that it is half empty and sit and stare at it, or go get yourself some more to drink. So much of our daily life and experience depends on what we choose to make of it ourselves. We cannot help our initial reaction and feelings, but we can choose how we are going to act and react to those emotions. We can choose to be controlled by our day or we can choose to take charge of our own destinies.

I won’t give specifics about what initiated this particular post, as it was not an incident from my own life. It was something I observed and it struck a chord. I will say that I am getting a little tired of the attitude that to be nice is somehow to be a pushover. Or that to be nice means you are not honest about your feelings. That to be nice means you are mealy mouthed and a pushover and it is not to be respected. I am a little tired of the attitude that it is okay to be obnoxious, bitchy and rude because you are being “honest”. We can be honest and leave each other’s dignity intact. We can be kind to each other and make each other’s day a little brighter.

Instead of spending our time bitching, why do we not spend our time being thankful for the things that we have?

I am thankful for my family, and my creativity. I am thankful for the country that I live in. I am thankful for my many freedoms. I am thankful for my job, and I am thankful for the things that frustrate me too. Those things in life that annoy me remind me to count my blessings and not take them for granted.

Peace and Knitting, JoLene Treace

Back Home Again

July 10, 2009

I am back home again, and getting caught up on rest, unpacking and housework. Also finishing up Lush, Calliope, and the All Seasons version of Bramble Berry. Those three designs were at TNNA and had pre-orders taken on them at the show.

When I was in the Lexington area it was amazing how many yarn stores there were in and around the Boston area, and it struck me again how blessed we are in this country.  I love being an American and I love this country. I love the choices we have.  I love the freedoms we have. With that freedom comes responsibility. It is the same with our knitting.

We are each in charge of our own knitting. With that comes the responsibility to own our knitting…and by that I mean the whole thing, right down to every last thing we are willing to learn or not willing to learn.

We live in a day and age where it is so easy to blame someone, anyone, other than look at our own responsibility.  If there is something not turning out right, how often do groups of knitters either by themselves or in online communities rush to cast stones at the designer or publisher, because of perceived shoddy work?

You would be surprised how often it is something like not having an understanding of selvedge stitches and how that affects your stitch  count and where you work the pattern. I recently had an experience with a completely delightful knitter who was having problems with a pattern of mine, and it turned out that it was just not understanding selvedge stitches and how they work. That really wasn’t her fault, it isn’t something people are really taught. That’s why I include it in the General Instructions part of my patterns.

In the end does it matter the quality of classes or instruction we have received? No, because we still have eyes, and we still look at our knitting, and we still make value based decisions for ourselves on what works for us and what does not. At least, hopefully that is what happens. I am guessing that if you read my blog you probably do make those kinds of decisions for yourself. In any case, you can have poor lessons and still recognize that you need more and seek out that information. You can receive excellent classes and see that you have wonderful results and choose to continue those methods. There is a cause and effect, and observing that will give you knowledge and mastery.

What do any of us demand from our passions in life? Do we want to be observers or do we want to be participants? I want to be more than a participant, I want to master my knitting. I want it to do my bidding. I want it to follow my whims. I want it to follow where I lead it. I want it to reflect me. I want it to be a joyful experience. I want it to be peaceful. I want it to be soothing. I want it to be nurturing. I want it to be exciting. I want it to be creative. I want it to be what I want, when I want, how I want. I don’t want to be at the mercy of a hobby that delivers results that are unpredictable, unrepeatable, and frustrating, particularly when it doesn’t have to be. How liberating is that? Those are things that don’t have to be!

Love your knitting. Love it enough to slow down and not rush it. Look at what the stitches are doing. Explore what you can do to make your finishing better. Expand your skills. Don’t expect to find this in a pattern…the pattern is only going to tell you how to knit that item, not how to knit. Learning how to knit, refining those skills, that is in your realm. There are so many choices in things like how to cast on and a myriad of other choices that will affect your finished garment, and some of them are very personal  choices. There is more than one way to do different things, and you will find that certain ways appeal to you more than others. In the end you will enjoy the process more and it will feel more natural to you, because you are making informed choices rather than floating blindly along.

My sister is a Pianist, and she practices scales over and over and over. Aren’t they boring, I would ask her? She would smile at me, and patiently explain that they make her hands strong. See, that is why she is a Pianist and I am not. We both took piano lessons, only I never practiced. She plays beautifully and I could listen to her for hours. She plays some very demanding pieces of music. She played pieces as a Freshmen in college that people played for their Senior Recitals. The fundamentals are boring, but they make you stronger. They build your skills. They are what make you a Master. They are what make your finished piece exciting. They turn your garment into Haute Couture. Are you going to settle for McNuggets or are you going to have Stir Fried Breast of Chicken in Ginger Scallion Glaze?

I know, it isn’t exciting like diving into the next project. Read through ALL the pattern and see what you need to know. If there is something more you need to learn, look it up in a book or online. If it is more than you can get from that type of resource, take a class. Make a copy of your pattern that you can mark up with what notes you need. Abbreviations you might not be familiar with, or references to new tecniques and so on. Take the time before you dive in so your project goes smoothly. You are worth the effort and so is your knitting.

Peace and Knitting, JoLene Treace

Hello From Boston

July 6, 2009

I have been having fun visiting the Boston area…more specifically I am in the Concord and Lexington area. I flew into Boston, but that has been it for this trip.

I have visited 4 or 5 yarn stores, one ice cream place (in Bedford), and been to a couple military parties.

Today we went to the Minute Man park. That was simply amazing. It was awe inspiring to see sections of the road where the revolutionary war started. We also saw the site of the North Bridge, including the current North Bridge. I think the current North Bridge has been rebuilt 3 or 4 times. Understandable as it is a wooden bridge and they only last so long with people walking over them on a daily basis.

As far as the yarn stores, my first day I went out was when Ed was at work. What better way to spend a rainy day when the husband is at work? Wild and Wooly was my first stop. They had a fantastic selection and were very nice. Turns out they also carry some of my knitting patterns, and recieved some from Up North Fiber Art Supply after the Summer trade show in Columbus (TNNA) the same day I visited. Edwina’s Knitch was another shop I went to that day. I was going to go to Creative Warehouse that day, but when I called Black Sheep the friendly and helpful lady there told me Creative Warehouse wasn’t open on Wednesdays (this was a Wednesday, obviously). So I decided to go to Lexington and do Creative Warehouse and Black Sheep another day. I haven’t made it over there yet, but will on my next trip.

I went to a little store on Thursday. I don’t remember what it was called. It was a nice little store, but did not have a very big selection of yarn. In all honesty I don’t remember many details on where I went, other than Wild and Wooly. I will go back there. The other small stores I went to were nice enough, but nothing to write home about.

There are still plenty of other stores on my “hit list”. Creative Warehouse, Black Sheep, Island yarn, Windsor Button, A Good Yarn, Wolcott & Co. Those are the ones I remember off the top of my head though.

Ed has surgery on his knee tomorrow for a torn meniscus. Then Wednesday I go back home. We were able to celebrate our 20th anniversary together. we watched the Boston Pops from tv rather than in person (we were going to go for the fireworks but Ed was having a lot of pain so we stayed home). We did that on our Honeymoon 20 years ago.

I will be putting pictures on Flickr. I have not done that in ages. So there is only a little to see right now but there will be more later.

Peace and Knitting, JoLene Treace

Design What You Love

June 26, 2009

There is some interesting discussion in Ravelry regarding submitting to magazines, and a question came up regarding whether to submit to magazines you hate. My personal opinion on this is two-fold: life is to short to engage in things that you truely hate. After that, recognize that as a Designer there are a number of options and niches open to you. What are your goals? Do you want to be seen everywhere and anywhere? How do you want to grow your business? What kinds of Designs do you love to do? How do you challenge yourself as a designer?

I will be the first to admit my first goal is not quantity. I work part time and that is my primary income. However, I have to be profitable in my design business, as I cannot afford to truely subsidize it from our family budget.

What am I looking for as a Designer in an job? I want to be challenged and inspired. I won’t produce a design I don’t love. Period, end of story, no discussion, no compromise. Does this mean I won’t design outside my norm? Absolutely not. I can love good design that is outside my normal realm. I can appreciate different types of beauty. I know when a design is good and when it is not. When it is good, I love it. When it is not, I don’t. I am not happy with it until it is complete. When it is complete, it feels done. It tells me I can let go of it. My mind no longer wraps around it. It moves on to the next design.

You will never see me slap something together that a monkey could do. Yes, I know there is money in that. I don’t care. I don’t want my Design Name built on that.

Ann Budd recently told me that my designs are always on target, in reference to a design recently sent to them (I have just completed the 5th project I have done for Interweave). Now that is what I want to be known for. Not the volume of simple, mindless things I can churn out that I don’t like knitting myself. I am not trying to be a Diva, again I just feel life is too short.

I don’t have enough time to do all the designs I have swatches for anyway, let alone put my resources into projects I would end up hating. My idea of a simple project, after all, is something like my Three Flowers pattern or Elizabeth I. While I know people enjoy fun fur scarves and I am happy for them, I don’t myself so you will not see me doing one just to make money off of people.

Besides, I am really retarded when it comes to combining novelty yarns. They don’t inspire me. I can admire them in the ball, but the knitting I love is not conducive to using that kind of yarn. Am I less of a Designer because I don’t push that envelope? Because I don’t design anything? Why should I? The knitting world is large enough with plenty of Designers who enjoy novelty yarns and do amazing things with them. Can they do the same things with traditional yarns that I do? Maybe, maybe not. I would hazard a guess that if they loved it, they would be doing it.

There is an adage in writing, to write what you know. This does not mean that you should never stretch, learn, grow, try new things. It means you should be true to yourself, whatever that is, and to be unashamed. There is a balance between learning, taking in and incorporating, and staying rigidly withing your own narrow margins…that balance between keeping your style fresh and not knowing what your style is. Or simply doing something completely different because you want to. If you have been inspired to, I think that is really where you grow as a Designer. There is much more creative energy in those situations. I guess I believe there is more to good design than a formula. Yes, there are theories and fundamentals and rules and all that. But there has to be a spark there too. If there wasn’t anyone could memorize those rules and theories and be the next Coco Channel, Vera Wang, or any other big name Designer with a capitol “D” (in their cases really, really big “D”s).

I will unashamedly offer you what I love, in every design. It will not be something created soley to earn a quick dollar or two, although of course Designs are made with an eye towards an income (they have to be marketable, after all, or as a Designer you cannot continue to design). They will be thoughtful, and deliberate. They will have a story behind them. They will have substance and meaning. They will have a piece of me in every stitch. They will have details that make the garment look better, because care is taken with where stitch patterns stop and start at the seams, and attention is given to what happens to the stitch pattern at the armhole shaping. They will have attention paid to details that really do make it a Designer garment.

I am a Designer with a capitol “D”…not a designer. I am more than a technician, I am an artist. I am a studio artist whose medium is knitting, and my abstract art looks like a classic handknit that is trendy enough the pattern can be a popular seller for years and still look fresh. Any of you who have my patterns and read the section “Behind the Design” know I love to tell the story behind the design. What has inspired it, some of the desing choices that were made and why. And yes, it really is abstract art.

Do I submit to books and magazines? I do. Mostly to books because their time frames are more in keeping with what I can do in a sane manner and work part time. Besides, I love working with Interweave. I have been on the calls for submissions list for XRX for several years, and keep thinking about submitting but have not yet. I like Rick Mondragon, and generally I like the magazine. The biggest factor for me has been time.

I like having my own line of pattern leaflets and being able to work at my own pace. Part of having my own line is the freedom to use the yarns I want to use. I don’t choose yarns that are wildly out of reach, although I know some are expensive.  But I like being able to choose each design element. With a magazine, there is always the chance that the yarn can get changed. It can happen with books too, although that has not happened as much (on a personal level). When I submit to a publisher though, I really look at the yarn I am using in the first place. This helps cut down on substitutions.

What is next for me? Adding things in my pattern line that I don’t have yet, or as much of. Designs in lighter weight yarns, children’s designs, more men’s designs, and color work. More lace. More warm weather designs. Also a book submission.

Peace and Knitting, JoLene Treace