- Hi, I'm Vanessa. In 2010, when I was 25, I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. I blog about my life after cancer, my love of knitting and cage fighting. I make sewn and stuffed body parts at Survival Organs.
Tag Archives: guest posts
Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark, the instructor on Craftsy’s Artemisia sweater, has kindly written a post about how her online class helps to take the fear out of knitting fitted garments. I’ve enjoyed the Craftsy classes that I have taken, and I hope you give hers a try too!
Have you ever been intimidated by a craft project? Being stressed out by yarn or fabric almost seems silly, but even as a professional knitwear designer, I still have moments where certain craft techniques are a little scary, foreign, and seem like too much to tackle on my own. These days, most knitting techniques are pretty familiar for me, but when I pick up a craft project for fun, I sometimes avoid pushing myself to try new techniques. One of my uncomfortable areas is sewing clothing. I love to do it, but things like making buttonholes and putting in zippers can make me avoid a project for weeks, or months, at a time.
Even when a craft is our hobby, and done for relaxation, it’s still good to push ourselves past the comfort zone here and there. I want to sew more complicated garments. There are many knitters who want to branch out from accessory projects to making sweaters. Classes are a great way to push yourself a little, try new things, and meet new people. But what if you don’t have a craft shop handy? What if you are too busy to make it to class?
This summer, Craftsy.com, an online learning platform, asked me to teach a knit along class with one of my original sweater designs. Craftsy is an online learning community that hosts expert instructors teaching fun, innovative classes. I filmed a series of short videos over the course of 3 days, which were edited into easy-to-access lessons that my students can stream anytime. You can fit in your learning time on your schedule, and once you enroll in the class, you always have access, your enrollment never expires! The site has cool features such as a personal notes section, where you can take notes on the class and your project, and 30 second replay, so you can watch my hands on instruction on repeat until it clicks with you.
I designed a class that would have fun new techniques to try, but not be too overwhelming for a newer knitter. The Seamless Artemisia Sweater class is now going strong, with more than 2.000 students knitting away on their sweater projects. Craftsy is an excellent, cost-effective way to learn new skills and meet other crafters, while getting expert help on your project. I answer students individually several times a week, often every day, helping them as they get stuck, have questions, or want advice. Many times, they just check in to let me know how they’re doing, since the videos are designed to be as thorough as possible.
Artemisia is a relaxed fit sweater, designed with a leaf lace panel, set-in, top-down sleeves, seamless construction and hourglass shaping, and knit-in pockets. Many students are modifying their projects to alter sleeve length and detailing, changing shaping for a custom fit, and modifying the length and pockets. What could seem like an intimidating sweater project is broken down into baby steps with lots of guidance and wiggle room, so my students have been able to approach the sweater one technique at a time. You’ll be able to watch and knit from cast on to finishing, right along with me and your fellow students! This has been a great teaching experience for me as well. I love seeing my students have breakthroughs as they conquer new skills and show off their projects.
I love the Craftsy platform for learning, so I’ve already signed up for a class by one of their expert sewing instructors on how to sew a custom-tailored button down shirt. I can’t wait to try new techniques in class!
I’d love to see you in The Seamless Artemisia Sweater class, or another Craftsy class with me! Sign up today for discounted enrollment.
My good friend from college, Tina, surprised me the other day by showing off her crafty side. She shared this tutorial on a cute and quick alteration she makes to her skirts when they’re either a wee bit too snug or too loose. She’s kindly agreed to let me repost and share with you! I hope you enjoy it!
I get a lot of my clothes secondhand, partially because I like thrifting and trawling the vintage section on Etsy, and because I like fashion, but I especially like not spending rivers of money. But whereas buying something in-store or from the actual manufacturer’s website means I can debate over which size to buy and return something if I need the next size up, if I fall in love with some random vintage something and the measurements are off by a couple of inches, it’s just not gonna work.
Unless it’s a skirt and the only real problem is the waist measurement. Like a lot of other women, my weight tends to fluctuate, and I don’t like super-tight uncomfortable clothing anyway. So if it’s a skirt that I like, that works right everywhere except the waist — or let’s be honest, if it’s a skirt I fit into just fine three years ago that’s just not as comfortable on me now — as long as there’s a back zipper, magic can be made, my friends.
YOU WILL NEED:
- A skirt, obviously. I found this skirt, which was pretty much exactly what I wanted, on sale for $16 and it was just perfect except for being, you know, 24″ around the waist. I could always zip it up halfway, set a safety pin across the zipper track right under the pull so it wouldn’t fall down, and wear a longer top or a blazer or a waist belt over it, but the fix will make it quite a bit more versatile.
- Some kind of coordinating lace or cord or your choice, the longer the better.
- Loopy trim the same colour as the tape of the zipper — the woven cloth part on either side of the tracks. You can Google “loop trim” or “looped braid trim”, though I’ve also seen it referred to as “gimp trim”, which makes me giggle immaturely. What you want is a sort of strip or “lip” that runs alongside the bottom of the row of loops, because that’s how you’re going to attach it on. Err on the side of sturdiness, because the flimsier the thread that connects the loops to the strip, the more likely one of the loops is going to pop free while you’re wearing the skirt, which will make you want to hulk smash everything considering the work you did to put the trim in.
- Finally: matchy thread and an averagely thick needle. I went with ivory thread in this case instead of plain white because I didn’t want my crooked stitches to show. This is going to be my first time doing a skirt that needs light-coloured trim; in the past I’ve only used black.
Okay, first thing you’re going to do is take a good look at what you’re working with. This skirt has a strip of material on the left side that is meant to hide the zipper; hence, the zipper tape is much wider on this side than it is on the right, which barely has any leeway to stitch something onto at all. I try to make a point to only sew the trim onto the zipper tape, because I don’t want to make little holes in the skirt fabric in case I eventually want to take the trim off, or in case I mess up while I’m sewing it and have to rip my stitches out, or if my weight fluctuates enough that I can zip the damn thing up properly one day.
I don’t want to remove the zipper itself or damage it, just in case, so sewing horizontally over the teeth or actually removing the metal pull are things I don’t do, either. Besides, the seam where the zipper tape connects to skirt fabric creates a natural line that makes it easy to follow while hand-sewing.
Next, pull the zipper pull upward just the tiniest little bit so you can shove the tab (the thing you actually pull on) down into the vee where the skirt fabric is sewn to the lowest point of the zipper. You just want to nestle it in to get it out of the way, so it can blend in and no one will be able to tell it’s still there.
I don’t pre-cut lengths of trim, because it’s hard to predict exactly where that last loop is going to fall once it’s all sewed on. So I just go right from the roll and cut where I need to cut at the end. Starting from the bottom of the zipper tape, I’ve gone up the left side, the one with the wider strip of zipper tape, first. Make small stitches, make sure you don’t snag that little ridge of skirt fabric, and go slowly! The good thing about that little ridge of fabric is that it’ll hide any mistakes.
You stitch right up to the top, and ascertain which loop on the trim will be your last complete loop before you don’t have any more zipper strip to use as a base to stitch on. Cut your excess trim after that point.
This is how it’s going to look when you’re done with the left side.
This is the right side, in progress. If you squint, you can see where a couple of my stitches are — in that teeny tiny ridge of tape between the calico and the zipper teeth. Just delicately make your stitches, making carefully sure not to actually snag that little fold of fabric between your tiny ridge of tape and the skirt’s seam. The underside of this stitching looks pretty much like what you’ve already done right-side-up on the left side.
When you finish that off, take a deep breath, because you just done did it! After a break, in which you will look down at what you just made with as much affection as you had loathing while you were actually sewing the thing, you can try it on and start lacing up. Because all this really is is a pseudo-corset panel, only without really obvious metal latches or grommets or something that will make the panel blend in less than you probably want. My own preference is when it looks like this was just the design of the skirt, so I try to match the trims to the fabrics and make them subtle.
I like to use thicker ribbon to do the lacing because (as pictured) it creates almost like a little fabric panel of its own, in case you don’t want whatever shirt you may be tucking into the skirt, or skin, or anything, to show underneath the laces.
So this is what it would look like at the end! And what makes the corseting especially versatile is that you can lace it tighter or looser depending on if you’re tucking your top in or leaving it out, or if you’ve fluctuated a few pounds depending on the time of the month (god knows I do that) or whether you’re just in the mood to wear it looser rather than tighter that day. Super cute. AND THERE YOU HAVE IT.
There we have it, indeed! Many thanks to Tina for letting me use her words and pictures. I’ve also been interviewed by blog friend Underground Crafter as part of Hispanic Heritage Month. You can read that over here.
My personal trainer, Vanessa, has kindly agreed to write-up a guest post about the importance of trying new foods. I’ve started to reform my picky eater ways, and I’ve learned that there are some veggies and fruits that I like. It really boils down to being willing to take that risk.
I spend most of my work day watching the human body move. I watch its angles and curves, its stretches and strains. I’ve seen bodies transformed, not just from “larger” to “smaller” which is what most people associate with personal training and weight loss. No, I’ve seen bodies go from cumbersome and rigid to limber and agile. And that may be the most inspiring transformation of all. For 1-2 hours a week, my clients give me their best efforts in the form of weight training, cardiovascular exercise, and plain old heart. I push them. They often push back. But for those who will eventually “get” what I’m trying to impart, they start relaxing into the workout more, laughing more, and accepting that a new body isn’t possible without a new mind. And so the mind transforms as the body takes shape.
Here’s a fact: when the body becomes more limber, so does the mind. And vice versa. We are holistic beings, and we are a mind-body, not a mind and a body.
One of the areas of life where we stay entrenched, rigid, and therefore burdened, is our food.
“No, no, I don’t like spinach.”
“NO DIET SODA??? WHAT????”
You’ve heard it. You’ve said it. Come on. ’Fess up.
The problem with this thinking isn’t about the unhealthy foods that are standing in the way of better choices. The problem is the mindset. The mindset says, “I won’t change. I won’t entertain other options. I am not open.”
There is such a limited amount of work I can do with someone who won’t learn new exercises. And the same limits are rigidly in place when people won’t learn new ways of eating. See, when the mind opens to the potential of a new body, it opens to the possibility of a new self-image, new personal clothing styles, new activities suddenly seem attractive, new vacation spots emerge as viable, interesting options… do you see? A step toward fitness is a step toward an ever-expanding world of options! How will any of this occur when one area of the mind is rigidly against new food choices?
I’ve heard it said that we “get fit in the gym; lose weight in the kitchen.” I can’t agree more. Understand that 80% of your weight loss success will be directly related to the food you are eating. This is the truth. However, this is not possible if we are not open to new foods.
I’m not talking about subsisting on grilled chicken salads and raw celery sticks.
I’m talking about buying a cookbook filled with nothing but vegetarian options.
I’m talking about replacing all liquids in your diet with water unless or until it’s the weekend.
I’m talking about learning what quinoa is, what kale is, what to do with shrimp besides fry it.
I’m talking about learning what it means to balance your carb intake against your proteins and fats.
I’m talking about taking risk. Believing that you are smart enough and creative enough to manage your own health through your diet. No one is more capable of these choices than YOU.
I’m talking about an open mind.
Health and fitness, sadly, has become a choice of a lifestyle. I wish it weren’t! I wish unhealth, disease, and sedentary lifestyles were unheard of. But the fact remains: you have a choice.
Will you choose to be rigid?
Or will you choose to be open?
Take a risk. See what happens. Broaden your horizon.
Did I mention she’s in grad school to become a therapist? Thanks for the post, Vanessa. The idea of opening up your mind to try something new applies to everything in life from crafting to food to vacations. Try something new this week!
The lovely Carol from Stolen Stitches has kindly granted me a spot on her blog tour for her new Craftsy course, Celtic Cables. I’ve asked her to write about knitting, her fears and just jumping into advanced techniques like cables.
I deal with fear a lot in my life, consciously and unconsciously. In fact, it often affects more of the choices I make than I’d care to admit. Fear of failure, of taking on too much, or of just looking like a fool is something we all deal with daily. You can’t tackle all your fears at once, but you can make a real effort to acknowledge what you are afraid of (and why), and to take steps towards pushing your own personal boundaries.
In the last few years I’ve tried to push myself each year to do something totally new, something that on first thought makes me really nervous. Starting as an independent designer was one of those things, as was publishing my first book, Contemporary Irish Knits. And, saying yes to the invitation to teach Craftsy courses definitely falls into that category! I began teaching a few years ago and the first few times I taught in person I found it terrifying. After a few classes, I found myself easing into the process to the point where I now look forward to teaching. However, even though I knew I could do the teaching part, the full studio recording production needed for an on-line class was a whole different ball game. I prepared for the classes like I never had before, running through the lessons over and over in my head many times. I wanted to think through every last detail so that nothing would catch me out. This of course didn’t stop that lovely queasy feeling on the first (and second, and third …) morning of shooting. But eventually I started to relax and before I knew it I was in fact enjoying the process!
As a designer, teacher and most of all as a knitter I know that trying new techniques can be scary, particularly in the middle of a large garment representing dozens of hours of your work. If you’re in that situation and the idea of working cables in a garment really scares you, I’d suggest taking deep breath and jumping in.
If you are new to garments and/or cables, you should be warned that doing a cabled cardigan will require a lot of swatching and patience, but it can be done by anyone with basic knitting skills. It will take patience and practice, but as long as you take it one stitch at a time you WILL be able to do it! I think the nice part about an online class (rather than a once off face-to-face event) is that you can go completely at your own pace. You can just begin with one portion of the class and there is no pressure to move on to the next challenge until you are totally comfortable with the last one. This safety net helps you grow as a knitter, letting you face new (sometimes scary) challenges and overcome them as you master new skills.
In terms of my Celtic Cables class, I think there are two aspects that knitters might find new (and therefore a little scary). The first is working with cables if you have never done so before. Cables at their most basic are just stitches reorganized on your needles. To work them, you usually slip some stitches on a cable needle (just an extra needle that’s smaller than usual), hold them at the front or back of the work, and then work them after you’ve worked a few more stitches. The magic of cables really starts appearing after you’ve finished a few rows; you can see the pattern start to emerge, which is very exciting.
I think the fact that you need to knit a few rows “on faith” before the pattern is established is part of why a first time cable knitter might feel nervous. For me, one of the ways to get over this hurdle is through charting. Cables are very visual and I think the best way of writing a cable pattern is using a chart. Perhaps you’ve avoided charts before now? I love the visual quality of charts, especially for cables; what you see is what you get! I use them often in my published patterns and hopefully my love of charts translates well in this class and can help you love them as well. In the class, I show how to read charts, and most importantly how to keep track of where you are in the chart as your work progresses.
Another possibly scary challenge for many knitters is knitting a garment that fits very well. Perhaps you’ve knit garments that only ‘kind of’ fit or maybe you’ve avoided working with garments entirely? With a combination of accurate gauge and good body measurements anyone can knit a well fitted garment. In the Celtic Cable class knitters work through the steps that they’ll need to help a garment fit them well starting with accurate body measurements and the correct gauge. Once both of these steps are in place each lesson deals with different sections of the garment, how to knit them and how to make some possible modifications if necessary.
As a designer and knitter, I love the look and feel of cable patterns, and flattering, well-fitted garments – I think most knitters do too. One of my hopes is that my patterns and classes in general, and the Celtic Cables class in particular, will help knitters who have been nervous about tackling this kind of work to feel more confident and ready to give it a go.
Many thanks to Carol for that inspiring essay. You can preview the class and receive a 33% discount by using this link to the Celtic Cables class. Below is a full list of her blog tour, please stop by and say hello:
- 23rd July: Yarn Yenta
- 26th July: Miso Crafty Knits
- 28th July: The Pagan Knitter Podcast
- 1st August: Anni’s Knitting Blog
- 3rd August: Mixed Martial Arts and Crafts
- 5th August: Handmade by Stefanie
- 7th August: Rosemary Go Round
- 9th August: A Good Yarn Sarasota
- 11th August: The Sexy Knitter
I asked new blog friend Packing Pretty if she would be so kind as to write up a guest post. She is a certified NRA instructor and range safety officer. She’s also a martial artist, crafter and addicted to high heels. Her blog is also a hoot. She and I do have a shared interest in female safety–it’s a subject that most women avoid talking about for a variety of reasons. Read on to find out just why women everywhere need to keep themselves safe.
Every 2 minutes, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted.
- 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed rape; 2.8% attempted rape).
- 9 of every 10 rape victims were female in 2003.
- The FBI estimates that only 37% of all rapes are reported to the police.
Take a second look at those statistics. They really speak for themselves to the importance of Self defense, especially for us women.
Knowing how and being capable of defending yourself are two separate things. Just because one has read up on and watched defense techniques does not make one proficient in them. Now, more than ever, it is imperative that women seek the proper knowledge and training in several methods of self defense.
As a Defensive Pistol instructor, I am skilled in defense with a handgun, but my journey to personal protection does not end there. I also train in rifles, martial arts, batons and knives. Every situation is different and calls for different actions and tactics. Being proficient in a handful of defenses gives a woman the tactical edge. If one form of defense fails, she has others to fall back on – and if there’s one thing we can learn from combat, it’s that your plans are likely to fail.
Did you know that self-defense training actually lowers the chances that someone will try to make you their victim? It’s true, the confidence you gain through training will change the way you look to a possible attacker. What are attacker’s looking for? The answer is an easy victim. Your aura alone can make or break the decision for a predator to choose you as his prey or walk away.
I often find myself preaching that personal defense is each individual’s responsibility. I believe this with all my heart. The police can’t be everywhere at once, and at some point you must take your personal safety and/or that of your family into your own hands. And just as personal defense is an individual responsibility; so is knowing both federal and state defense laws where you live.
In conclusion, being skilled in a handful of ways to ward off attacks will drastically lower your chances of not only being a victim but being preyed on in the first place. And remember: you, first and foremost, are responsible for your safety. Make sure you know and understand the law regarding self-defense. Stay safe and happy training.