Wednesday, April 30, 2008

One snip and it's gone!

For the last four years, I've been involved with a youth mentoring program offered through my work. Every other week, youth from a Los Angeles area high school are brought in and we work with them on a variety of issues - from school to personal life, goal setting, college etc.

My mentee for the last couple of years has been Jeanette, who is graduating in about a month, and recently accepted a position at a private liberal arts college in Pennsylvania with the hopes of studying theater and teaching.

For the last 3 years, she's been growing her hair and talking about cutting it off to donate to Locks Of Love, a non-profit organization who create hairpieces from donated hair for financially disadvantaged children who have suffered hair loss for whatever reason. I can't fully explain how happy I was when Jeanette asked me to go with her to do this - an event she had been planning for around her 18th birthday (which was April 2.) Apart from being a wonderful bonding experience for the two of us, it was also an opportunity for her to shed her high school self and move forward into "adulthood" as she heads off to college and a world of new experiences.

Of course, I took the opportunity to document this incredibly rewarding occasion and the pictures really speak for themselves!

Also, thanks to Great Clips. They're a Locks Of Love salon and if you donate the hair, they donate the haircut.

One happy Jeanette, who claims that her head feels about 3 lbs lighter!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Free Knit Pattern - Roman Holiday Mitts

by Natalie Jacobs

I finally got around to writing down one of my random improvised knit patterns, and now that it's ready, I wanted to share. (This will shortly be available as a pdf.)

I lost the tag for the yarn that I made these from, but I remember the color way was called Audrey Hepburn, which inspired the name for these.

These fingerless mitts are a good beginner project with an easy to remember pattern stitch. They work up quickly so they are a lovely idea for a last minute gift. As the pattern stitch is worked all the way around, there is no difference between the left and right hand mitts. The cables can easily be done without a cable needle, or using a spare double pointed needle, if you don't want to use a cable needle. I designed these on double pointed needles, but this can easily be adapted for any other method that you prefer.

Yarn: Approx 100 yards of worsted weight
Gauge: 12 stitches and 12 rows = 2" in pattern stitch
Needles: 5mm (Size 8 US) double pointed needles
Notions: Stitch marker, small amount of waste yarn in contrast color
(Note: The mitt will seem narrow, but stretches once put on. The gauge is based on the size of the mitt before it is stretched.)

Slip next two stitches onto cable needle and hold at back of work. K2 from left needle, then 2 from the cable needle.
C4F: Slip next two stitches onto cable needle and hold at front of work. K2 from left needle, then 2 from the cable needle.

Make two mitts as follows:
CO 36 stitches. Place marker and join in the round being careful not to twist.
Work K2, P2 ribbing for 10 rows.

Begin pattern stitch:
Row 1-2: Knit
Row 3: *C4B, K2* repeat around
Row 4-6: Knit
Row 7: *K2, C4F* repeat around
Row 8: Knit

Repeat rows 1-8 of pattern stitch three times. (Do 2 repeats for shorter mitt, or additional repeats for longer mitt).

Create space for thumb:
At beginning of next row, knit first 6 stitches onto waste yarn.
(Note: I recommend using a yarn that is a very different color from your main yarn so that it is easily visible.)

Put the 6 stitches just knit onto the waste yarn back on left needle, as if starting the beginning of the row.

Using main yarn, knit rows 1-8 of the pattern stitch once more.

Work K2, P2 ribbing for 4 rows and bind off loosely.

Work thumb:
Carefully pull out the waste yarn and place the 12 live stitches back on your needles.

Pick up one additional stitch in each corner (14 stitches total) and arrange evenly on the needles.

Join main yarn and knit around for 6 rows.

Bind off loosely and weave in all ends.

© 2008 Natalie Jacobs

Pattern is for personal, non-commercial use only. You may not make items originating from this pattern for profit. For any questions regarding the terms of use, please contact the designer at

Thursday, April 24, 2008

What to do with office trash

The beauty of being crafty is that it opens up the possibility to make something out of things that others would probably discard. Now that I have been spinning away with my drop spindle and really starting to get the hang of it, I did some research as to what might be helpful when plying two single strands of yarn together. There is something called a "Lazy Kate" which holds the bobbins of spun yarn and makes it easy to ply several strands together. Seeing as I just depleted my PayPal account buying roving for my new hobby, I decided it'd be easier to make one myself rather than having to buy one for now.

After rummaging around my office, I realized that all the supplies I needed are actually right here. Not only that, but they're plentiful and easy to access. So, here we are - my Lazy Kate recipe.

-2, or as many as you may need, plastic CD spindles (I work in music so there's lots of these around. They usually hold CDs before they go in jewel cases)
-1 cardboard box that is a little narrower than the length of the spindles
-1 pair of scissors
It's definitely a rough prototype and I will make a prettier model later, but it works like a charm (no more "toilet paper roll" bobbins running around the floor) and cost a spectacular free 99. Can't get much better than that!

Friday, April 18, 2008

I have yarn!

A week of practice and several withdrawals from my PayPal account, I am in full acknowledgment of my new fiber fetish. Buying roving to spin may be as much of a curse as buying pre-made yarn. My friend keeps joking that knowing me, I will end up buying a sheep and shearing it myself so that I can take full ownership of the process. She's not completely wrong...after all, you should have seen my face when my husband innocently suggested we get a llama, or some other kind of alpaca. He still has no idea why that was so entertaining to me.

Anyway, I am proud to present to you what I consider to be my first proper yarn. I purchased this from someone on Etsy - 4oz of hand-dyed Corriedale roving - and got to work spinning it up. 4 hours later, I sat back in awe of my creation and incredibly proud that I actually made this!
I am calling it "Midnight Storm" as all the crazy purples and navy blues remind me of the thunderheads at night (or at least what I remember them looking like considering I live in So. Cal and don't have a good point of reference currently). It's 88 yards, 2 ply and I used about 2oz of roving. I still have another 2oz to spin up, so I think I'll have enough to actually knit something with this.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Etsy Featured Shop - Jules Mae Clothing

Etsy is a wonderful place to find vintage items. I've never been one for getting those magnificent finds at the thrift store, but have always been jealous of those that have the ability to hunt down treasures. Jules Mae Clothing is a store that fascinates me because Julie not only has an obvious talent for finding vintage items, but also giving them a new lease on life. She has unique style and an eye catching way to display her products that's definitely worth checking out.

How long have you been creating garments and how did you get started?
Well, I grew up around it all. My mom was a magnificent seamstress and specialized in formal gowns. So, I suppose you could say that I was doing it as soon as my mom would let me have at her sewing machine (which is as long as I can remember.)

How would you describe your style? It’s an outward expression of what ever whimsy I may be experiencing at the time, usually vintage inspired. Past eras are enchanting.

What do you look for when shopping for vintage items to reclaim?
I try to envision the possibilities with any particular item. I suppose like most other designers I find that the fabrics sort of speak to me. They serve as the platform for inspiration.

Do you buy vintage items with a concept in mind or does the item generate an idea?
It depends, but usually I would have to say that I let the items inspire me. It feels like a more organic/natural process … sculptural, you could say.

What inspired you to use vintage men's ties to create pieces for women?
The ties themselves. It’s an empowering thing to find new uses for old items, especially when taking something that was made with men in mind and transforming it into something more feminine.

Working with vintage items, do you feel like they are telling a story?
Hmmm, I suppose all design is telling a story in one way or another, regardless of the materials used. So, yes. I also find humor in injecting small phrases into my work to evoke some kind of imaginary story the consumer can play out in their own mind. See my “He Walked Me Home and Then I Passed Out” headband. [inset right]

What's the story behind this item?
This little number was my own original design definitely inspired by the fabulous hobble skirts of the early 1900s. I included pin tucks down the front to emphasize a lengthy leg and the kick pleats in the back to capture that enchanting vintage elegance. The fabric was from a collection that my mother had tucked away for maybe a decade or more. When she passed away I got all of her bins of sewing paraphernalia. So, I suppose you could say that this piece (and all of my work, really) is an ode to her.

Do you craft things other than clothing?
I’m an artist at my core, so anything that crosses my path runs the risk of me altering or “enhancing” it in some way. I’m also a freelance illustrator -*cough* shameless plug –

Any tips on how to find a deal when shopping vintage?
Shopping vintage is pretty hit and miss, but mostly great deals are easy to find if you frequent the right places. Many thrift stores have a “fill a bag for $5” sale from time to time, especially the smaller local type stores. When buying vintage, try to imagine what it could become with a few minor alterations or enhancements. Move the hem up, take the sleeves off, add some beading or ribbons or other embellishment. The possibilities are endless.

If you could live in any era, what would it be and why?
I like this era just fine. It’s fantastic to live in a time when women are recognized as equals to men (more or less in our culture) and have access to all of the fabulous and inspirational art pieces (fashion included) of eras gone by. I don’t suppose I could trade “equality” with the glamour of the 40s, or the free love of the 60s, or the (what were we thinking) style of the 80s.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The revenge of the cheesy bagel

Today was bagel Friday at work, a wonderful tradition started a couple of years ago that has been eventful in many ways since its' inception. This morning, I came in, checked my e-mail and went to the kitchen for my obligatory cup of coffee and bagel. I selected half of a cheesy bagel and waited patiently for the toaster to become free.

I should note that we currently have 3 toasters in the kitchen at work; a regular two slice, a four slice (which only has one working side on account of someone breaking off the handle), and a toaster oven that smells like someone is about cook some kind of diesel fuel and is therefore not even plugged in. So, where we would regularly be able to toast 8 bagels at one time, right now we can only toast one.

Firstly, my toasting was delayed as I witnessed one of the VPs yelling at one of his employees for trying to pull her toast out of the toaster with a knife. After he informed her that electrocution by toaster wasn't covered by workers comp, she turned bright red and skulked off quietly lest she be berated a second time.

Finally, I get to the toaster and pop my bagel in, chat with a couple of other hungry co-workers and then hear the toaster "pop" to indicate that the bagel is ready. Of course, the bagel was still hiding in the toaster so I grabbed the handle and pushed it upward to eject my breakfast...and it did. The bagel popped out, rolled across the top of the toaster, off the table and disappeared behind the fridge. I managed to rescue my food from it's hiding place to throw it away, which involved wedging myself between the table and the fridge while reaching behind it and providing everybody present with a lovely view of my butt in the air...thankfully wearing jeans today. Having successfully retrieved it, the same colleague who was trying to stick the knife in the toaster asks me "why are you throwing that out?" I replied that I thought it was best to not eat something that had been lurking behind the fridge, which was met with a rather blank stare. Remind me not to eat at her house for dinner.

I checked back in the bagel pile to see if another cheesy bagel was waiting for me, but to no avail. After all that, I concluded that perhaps today wasn't a good morning for a bagel. My boss offered to console me by splitting the pear he grabbed from the fruit delivery with me, but I declined and settled upon some strawberries and cereal instead. I'm a little scared of what I might have to go through to eat lunch!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

My so called yarn

I had ordered a drop spindle and roving from a farm on last week, so that I could make a few first attempts at spinning my own yarn. It arrived on Monday and of course, I spent quite a bit of that afternoon furtively spinning up the roving in my office at every opportunity I could. Waiting for a report to run? Spin the yarn. Waiting for the printer? Spin the yarn. Well, you get the idea.
Anyway, 48 hours later, I have 28 yards of something that could be mistaken for yarn in my possession. I took it home last night to set the twist and dry it. Then I woke up this morning, pulled it off the shower head and have my first mini-hank of joy!

I'm calling it watermelon. I know that much more practice is needed until I have something that looks more "regular" so to speak, and of course I have ordered more roving already because I'm almost through the practice wool that I bought. As if I need another obsession? Oh well. =)

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Sock Wars!!!

I may have to get this going sometime...

Monday, April 7, 2008

Supporting the little guys

I have been sitting here now for several days anxiously anticipating the arrival of my new drop spindle and roving so that I can make a first attempt at spinning my own yarn. I know, I hardly need another crafty hobby but it's hard to resist sometimes. So, while I was googling places to get spinning supplies, I came across and purchased from a wonderful site that I feel needs more exposure - This is a site that allows you to order items directly from local farms. You can search farms local to you, or if they don't have exactly what you're looking for you can of course go further afield within the US. Anything from organically grown fruits and vegetables to candles, soaps, wool and fibers or even some chocolaty treats are available. I purchased my drop spindle and roving from a farm in Connecticut and knowing that the wool came from a sheep named Cuddles just gives me a warm fuzzy feeling.
In a world where people are constantly complaining about how evil corporations, such as Walmart, are sweeping into towns and providing jobs but obliterating the ability for local owned businesses to retain income, I am fully in support of this website. It is providing a way for farms to reach new consumers that they wouldn't ordinarily have access to and help them grow and stay in business. At the same time, it provides the consumer an opportunity to receive and use an organic product that hasn't been tainted by corporate politics.

I consider this a win win situation and that is why I want to spread the, take a minute to check it out and hopefully you'll be able to give support to a farm too!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Etsy Featured Shop - Sheknitigans!

I recently realized that despite being such a knitting fiend that I have never featured a yarn, fiber, or knitting store on my blog. Well, the saying goes that it's better late than never, so here we go!

For this feature, I interviewed Coley from Sheknitigans, an Etsy store featuring some truly beautiful hand-spun yarn. I have been sitting here this week waiting patiently for my own drop spindle and wool to get here so that I can start spinning myself. I find the beautiful yarns in Coley's shop to be inspiring as someone who has just decided to learn to spin!
How did you get your start spinning?
A few years ago while visiting my first fiber festival, in Rhinebeck, NY, I purchased my first drop spindle and rovings. I tried to spin this way to no avail, but still really wanted to spin, I was truly fascinated by it. After retiring the spindle for two years, my parents gave me the best gift ever - an Ashford Traveller. Three hours of assembly later, I tied on my first leader yarn and haven't stopped spinning since!

Can you give a brief description of the spinning process for those who may not know?
Spinning involves the drafting and spinning of fibers in precise (or not so precise) amounts to make different varieties of yarn. It is a combination of hand movements and foot treadling to make all the magic happen.

How long does it take for you to create an average skein?
The average skein takes me approximately three hours to spin, and then there is time involved to set the twist with a wash, whack, and dry. My upstairs neighbors really love the whacking part I'm sure.

Who dyes the yarns that you create?
I love to support other Etsians and buy 95% of my rovings and batts from Etsy Sellers such as Freckle Face Fibers, Poppy Flower Fibers, and Loop!

Do you let them create the colorways or do you design the colors with them?
Typically I let the dyers do what they do best, and I purchase the color blends that I can envision as a finished product. On occasion, I have recommended a colorway and they have been kind enough to oblige me. (Ok, I had a dream about roving. I admit it.)

What is your favorite thing about handspun yarn?
In a world of me-too's, everyone is searching for their own creative touch. Hand-spun yarn is always unique and original, no two skeins are ever exactly alike. Using hand-spun in a generic pattern or your favorite pattern can make a regular project really outstanding.

What is your favorite thing about this yarn?
Forest Fantasy is such a fun yarn out of my typical color range. My favorite thing about this yarn is the sparkles, and how soft the yarn is! You would never expect anything that sparkles like this to be next-to-skin soft, but it is really incredible!

How do you decide on the names for your yarns?
I am always inspired by my surroundings, which typically involve food and Starbucks. My favorite drinks and flavors are always making their way into my colorway names. I also try to incorporate literary devices such as alliteration - its the business marketing major in me ;)

What suggestions might you have for someone that is thinking about trying to learn spinning?
Try to find someone who spins - it might be someone in your knitting group, or in an online forum. They can provide encouragement or an opportunity to try spinning, as well as tips and support. The fiber community has been so amazing and helpful, supportive at every turn. It's incredible how much everyone is wanting to help and see you succeed. I am entirely self taught and people are always amazed to the learn that. Find a wheel and give it a whirl!

Do you do any other fiber arts?
Besides spinning, I knit at every spare moment - at red lights, in restaurants, on the plane. Spinning has given me the ability to make a popular pattern really unique by using my own handspun yarn to make it special.

To learn more about Coley and her yarns, also visit her website -

Thursday, April 3, 2008


While I'm in the mood for Spring, I thought I should spread the joy by offering a sale on all the photographic prints in my Etsy store over the next couple of weeks.

This sale will apply to all 5x7" prints, now $7.50, and 8x10" prints, now $15.00. So, you can pick up a beautiful spring print like "Passionately Purple" (shown below) to adorn your walls for a steal!!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


I know you may be wondering where I have been disappearing off to, but I would like to assure you dear readers that you are not forgotten!

I have been enjoying the beauty of South Beach, Miami for the last week. I'm a little browner than I was when I left (except my legs are still pale and could probably be used in lieu of a lighthouse). Of course, while I was out there, I think I discovered the truth behind the South Beach diet. While I did eat well, I probably managed to walk a good 3-4 miles each day. This was aided of course by a rather large slushy alcoholic drink, aptly named "Call-A-Cab". $9 well spent if you ask me. Just to give you an idea of how hard it was to return, take a look at this view from the window of our condo.We were also up to all kinds of things before we left for vacation. In particular, I have to give a shout out to my little rodent friend Yippy. I can't say I've ever had a particular desire to have a rodent for a pet, but this little guy won me over. We were baby-sitting him on behalf of my sister-in-law (who is 9) and it has to be said it was quite entertaining. He was quite the acrobat, enjoying swinging sideways off any surface you could put him on and rattling his cage, literally, by hanging off the bars. I found it quite strange that he never went near his hamster wheel (isn't that what they're supposed to do?) Even stranger is how he manages to fling his little hamster poop about 6-8 inches out of his cage. A talented little guy, no matter how you look at it!

In the meantime, wedding reception is this weekend so I've been finalizing all of that. I can't wait to put up pictures of my centerpieces, I think they look great. Also, I have other new and crafty endeavors in the offing so more info will come soon!!