Monthly Archives: July 2014

Oh Oh A New Craft

I have succumbed.
I was swayed by lots of enablers at the SSK retreat.  But they could have just pushed me with a feather and I would have fallen into this rabbit hole.

  1. It’s portable.  You can do it just about anywhere.
  2. It’s not a big investment in equipment.
  3. You are using different muscles than knitting and sewing.
  4. It’s very relaxing.
  5. Imagine getting exactly what you want to knit.

On a whim, I had already signed up for Malia‘s Find the Spindle that Sings class.  She was a great teacher.  I should have signed up for the beginning spindle class.  Because, like the first Photoshop class I took where I didn’t even know how to turn on the Mac, I didn’t know how to start.  But I caught up quickly with the more experienced spinners.

She went through techniques and other things that are variables in the qualities of the finished yarn, before going over all the different types of spindles.  We had an opportunity to test out all the spindles she demonstrated and different types of fiber.  I fell in love with 3.

Kate’s Cauldron (simple top spindle), Forrester ( Star Trek looking top spindle) and a turkish.

By the end of the class, I felt like it really was the right class for me.

Pic of Jeri Brock Turkish Spindle

My first spinning project

I decided to get a spindle at the market, a Jeri Brock turkish spindle.  But also decided NOT to get any fiber.  I have a little at home that was given to me.  If I finish what I have, than I’ll make the commitment to go further.

You see, my original idea for the spindle class…I wanted to figure out how a quick and easy way to ply all the thrift shop sweaters I already have.  You see, I was in sticker shock when I started knitting and thought, how cool would it be to knit with a $2 merino/silk men’s sweater.  I didn’t realize how thin and weak the yarn is.  Malia said that commercial sweaters are single ply with very little twist, all the strength and structure is in the knitting machines.  We can’t knit as finely as the machines.  I would agree.

pic of 1st finished MerinoHandspun

First finished hank of Merino Handspun

I have a lot of work/fun ahead.

But I need to do more research on finishing the yarn.  The spinning is slow, but I’m getting a decently even thickness in the single.  This is strictly for fun.  I don’t like the first plying attempt.  It is too loose.   I was hoping for some advise at the last knitting guild meeting.  No such luck.  I may have to start watching more spinning podcasts and checking on more YouTube videos.



Part 3: Impatience Equals Problem Solver

Previous posts:  Who is Johnson O’Connor? and Part 2: My First Reaction to JOCRF

The counselor’s first question to me was, “You’re not a very patient person, are you?”
You can read my initial reaction in the post, Part 2: My First Reaction to JOCRF.

“It means you’d make a great consultant….A consultant who would be great at identifying an issue/problem…come up with a solution/recommendation.  Consultants are not great at maintenance, managing, daily routine…Combined with your other strengths and weakness, in industrial engineering.”

OK…try to connect the dots between being impatient, being a consultant and being an industrial engineer.  He makes sense.  I thought I was just ADD or something.

Except he said “engineer.”  Me…never…Too much math.  My research after the test… I would have made a good industrial designer…engineer, never.

What is an industrial designer?  They take an idea, a concept or an existing product or environment and make changes that improve user experience.  Companies like Ideo who consult with Apple or Oxo.
Turns out it’s something I naturally do at home and wherever I’ve worked.  Most people adjust to what’s “always been done.”    I have a threshold.  I’ll live with it, as is, for only so long, but if I’m still frustrated.  Then I’ve got to fix it, find a better way.


Last month, at a meeting, there was a table left of the door with name tags and a sign-in sheet. But someone had to point and yell, “Sign in!”  After the fourth person, I knew that wasn’t working.  The meeting tables and chairs were right of the door.  No one even thinks to look left.  I dragged the table 2 to 3 feet over the right and 3 to 4 feet away from the wall and door.  In other words, the table became a barrier to walk anymore than 2 feet into the room.   Now they would automatically know to sign in and take a name tag.  Success.  No more shutting.

Or how the kitchen is organized.  I store items either where I’d use them (I should move the cutting boards closer to the knives) or group items by some category like baking, serving, drinks, etc.  It’s been 10 years in this house, so we are due for a major re-organization.

Keeping a clean house still alludes me.  Right now,  I have a twisted solution. We have a large Bible Study small group.  I am forced to clean at least once a month.  The rest of the days the dust and clutter wins.

I meet weekly with fellow knitters to teach families and older children how to knit at the residential house connected with the local children’s hospital.  The other gals are seasoned knitters and I am the new kid.  They would come in with lots of different project bags.  My plastic bags looked bit tacky.  I stitched up a few simple ones from my fabric stash and share them with the gals.  They liked them.  Me…the bags were ok.  I’m too embarrassed to show them to you.

Next bag generation, I made one for each of them as Christmas presents.  I’m proud of these bags.  But of course, as I see the gals use them, I see the shortcomings.

Then the gals start sharing more and more about bag features they love.

Zipper, wrist strap, sturdy fabric, shape….what about needle holders? pockets?
My knitting is evolving as well, socks on size 0 double pointed needles (DPNs).  A beaded cobweb lace shawl.  I needed quick access to crochet hooks, stitch markers and needle holder.

Again, more feedback and affirmations.  They were encouraging me open an Etsy shop by the Pipeliner retreat in March.  Eloise even printed out business cards for me.  I DID make a bag for her and for Laura of the Knitgirllls podcast.  But I was dragging my feet getting more made.  I loved the finished bags, but hated making them.  It was a frustrating process.  That is not the beginning of a lasting business.

If I open an Etsy shop, I want to make bags I LOVE making.  I do not want to be battling with these things every day.  Usually, by the second or third version, I can make improvements in the design that are quicker, easier, more efficient.  NOT THIS TIME. My frustration was near the give-up-&-quit threshold level. 

I was in desperate need of a ‘A HA’ moment.  Hubby and I remembered an old orange tool bag or coin purse that had a different kind of closure.  Squeeze the ends to open and it snapped close. He found it.  It was a red coin purse. It was sacrificed for research.

So now, I’m happy with the outcome of this bag.  It took a few more weeks and a few Craftsy classes to finally get the process down.  Although, I still need to create a checklist for assembly, at last count, there are 30 pieces in this puzzle.  And I’m always forgetting something.

There’s always something to improve.
There’s always some problem to solve.
This is what makes things interesting…who knew impatience was a good thing.

Previous posts:

Part 1: Who Is Johnson O’Connor?

Part 2: My First Reaction to JOCRF

More posts to come….

Purse #1: Done for Now

Previous posts:  Panic, Try Try Again

Of course it’s not perfect.  Is any bag perfect?


(pic of front of purse)

Yeah, It’s done. And I like it.

  1. I love the fabric mix.
  2. I love the size.
  3. I love the inside pockets.
  4. I love upcycling
    (strap, hardware and zipper are from an old purse)
  5. Check marks all my wish list.

Not so good:

  1. The lining fabric wasn’t stiff enough to stand up. I had to add boning at the sides.
  2. My stitching wasn’t perfect.  The faux leather kept stretching which caused some puckering.  Still more to learn.  Fortunately, it’s not on the public side.  I have a new roller foot that should eliminate this as a problem.
  3. (pic of back of purse)

    Faux leather nightmare

    One design flaw that is bugging me, that can’t be fixed…yet.  The inside curve of the bottom is bulging out.  I wanted the inside curve to fit around the hip for comfort and to sit on a table without toppling over.  This will take some thinking.

I wish I had time to make a matching wallet.  Maybe next week.

Am I always thinking about the NEXT project.  Yep, I think the next bag will be a slouchy style.


Purse #1: Try Try Again

One of the things I have learned the hard way…This is the “fail as fast as you can” stage.

It’s better to discover what you don’t want or what doesn’t work at this stage with paper models.


(pic of purse prototypes)

Enlarged model

Two of the small models looked promising, so I was ready to make the equivalent of a muslin pattern.  Instead, I made a better decision to expand the model to full size using brown paper grocery bags.  (shortcut thinking: I can always use this as the pattern for cutting.)  One of the model designs was eliminated based on being too bulky in the full size model.  I throw all these rejects and notes in a bin to revisit at another time.

(pic of Prototype Interior)

Inside Pockets

Time to focus on additional favorite features (accommodating all the stuff I want to carry in this bag).  Minor adjustments needed for the pockets.

Time to make a working model in denim.  Although not all the kinks are worked out.  I’m in a rush, so decided to improvise on the final bag.  Unfortunately, I forgot a few little features and to also work out ALL the processes, specifically, finishing the tabs.  But I don’t know if this would have changed with less time pressure.

(pic of potential purse fabrics)

Prototype Fabric Audition

Time to pick the final fabrics.  This is the fun and most time consuming part.  So many possibilities, so many potential mistakes.  I was happy with the first choice (black faux leather, black indoor outdoor fabric, nylon lining, and black micro suede.  But decided it was too safe and too dark.


(pic of selected fabrics)

Final selection of purse

Better to find something that was more summery.  Started with a favorite decorator linen toile, matched with a primitive pattern, another dark chocolate-brown faux leather, upcycling hardware from an old bag.

Getting excited….


Part 2: My First Reaction to JOCRF

I first heard about Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation (JOCRF) from one of hubby’s professors years and years ago. Timing couldn’t have been worse, with hubby still in grad school, our first baby and a first house.  The thought of spending $400 for a test and a long trip to a major city was the same as flying to Italy to buy a Lamborghini.

I regret that thinking now.

I needed help.  I had a career path that looked more like a maze with lots of dead ends and wrong turns.  I loved each job and excelled in them…for about a year, then I tolerated them and then hated them by the end of the second year.  OK, maybe it was just immaturity…but I didn’t outgrow this behavior.

I REALLY thought there was something really wrong with me.

15 years after that first conversation, for my 40th birthday present to myself, I went.

Day 1: a long day of very different quick tests. Some were fun, like playing a game, some were like a throwback to a miserable high school test. Each only lasted approximately 20 minutes. Definitely exhausted at the end of the day.
Day 2: hubby was able to be present at the counseling session which lasted an hour or more.

Counselor’s opening line:
You’re not a very patient person, are you?
A. Hey, that HURT!
B. Me? Impatient? That’s the last thing anyone would have called me!
C. Did he really say that? Where in the world did he get that from?
D. Was this the biggest waste of my time AND money AND an insult!?!
E. OK, that REALLY HURTS! How do I keep from crying?

Amazing how many thoughts go through in a few seconds. And how quickly tears come.

He back tracks…’No, no, no….It’s a good thing! The best consultants have the same trait.’
Now I’m confused.

He went line by line with the results of the tests, while I try to calm down.
I cannot recall everything he said. Writing this post is helping to bring back some of that memory.  I’ll have to parse out some of the details in subsequent posts. Let’s just say, as he talked, the more comfortable I got.  It went further than comfortable.  It was very weird to heard someone talk about me as if they knew EVERYTHING about me. He was making SENSE of all my quirkiness.

I remember thinking over and over again, ‘I wish I knew this years ago.’

UNTIL the very end when he said I’d make a great industrial engineer.
What’s an industrial engineer? Assuming it involves 4-6 years of school and a lot of math, calculus, physics.  That’s NOT GOIN’ HAPPEN!  No way.

That’s about as relevant as the Briggs Myers test said I was most like a chemist. I reacted that evaluation the same.  Ha! What a joke! Me!?! I nearly flunked chem in high school.

So did I waste our time and money?  I did not.  It was the best investment I’ve ever made.  I am not an industrial engineer, but it turns out I DO THINK like an industrial designer.

Part 1: Who Is Johnson O’Connor?

Part 3: Impatience equals Problem Solver



Panic: I Need A New Purse!

Since this is a blog about the crafting process, I thought I should include you in the beginning stages.  But I am in a rush.  The editing will not be perfect.

This whole sewing project started several years before I learned to knit. I bought some wonderful faux leathers in olive green ostrich, sparkly silver, and slightly practical creamy yellow. Just like yarn stash, they have been marinating until I felt brave enough to cut into them. Unlike yarn, once you make that first cut.  There is no frogging.  There is no do-overs.  In other words, there is hesitation and fear.

Since I started making the knitting project bags, I’ve been cutting and sewing lots of faux leather and other great fabrics. I have overcome my fear of the faux.

But of course, I still needed an outside catalyst (a kick in the pants) to do something about it.
The catalyst: opening the Etsy shop and going to SSK in less than two weeks!

I love my knitting project bags. They are colorful and fun and a little sophisticated. My own personal purse is BORING.  It is a very practical early black Baggalini cross body. I need to show up with something more interesting.  I need to add a bit of fun.  Hence the panic.

That is the very beginning for my design process. I need to solve a few problems/criteria.
A. I need something with more style and color than basic black.
B. I need to finish it in 10 days.
C. It should still be in the ‘Calm’ and neutrals, so still on the practical side.
D. Cross body and/ or backpack style.
E. easy access to phone, lipgloss, sunglasses, biz cards and keys
F. Comfortable to carry (I’m short and have shoulder/neck issues)
G. Secure place for license, cash, and cards
H. Organized, easy to find anything
I. Not floppy when sitting on a table

Oops, that’s a long list.

Here goes….

Step one: Research.  I’m not a shopper.   Going around to the stores is not my idea of fun.  So glad we have Pinterest now.  I searched on cross body bags.  Found too many.  Changed search to cross body bag tutorials.  Found enough to be interesting.

(pic of bag models)

Model construction of possible cross body bags

Step two: Model construction.  I start with binder paper.  Nothing fancy.  I just need to understand basic construction and possible tweaking.

Next steps:

Prototyping, Fabric Selection and Construction

Critique and Wear


Part 1: Who is Johnson O’Connor?

As I mentioned in previous posts, I’m not a chatty person.  If you and I have a chance to meet and if you ask, I will freely chat about crafting, food, and faith.  I’m much more interested in finding out about you.  As we are chatting and you tell me you have a child or grandchild in high school or in college or you are about to retire, just retired, or in career transition, I WILL tell you about Johnson O’Connor.  SInce nearly everyone is the last one, in career transition, I’ve been very chatty these last few years.  Most of the time, I get blank stares until I share a few of the stories.  No one “gets it” until I do tell a few stories.

First of all, Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation (JOCRF) is not your fairy godmother or fortune-teller magically plopping you into your ideal career path.  Instead, I got an honest look at who I am, warts and all.  If you are not ready to see your warts as an asset than wait until you can.  It took me quite a while to figure out how to use the information I learned.  Even so, I wish I had this information 20-30 years earlier.

The basic information:

As an engineer, Johnson O’Connor was charged with researching ways to improve productivity at General Electric around 1922.  He theorized this could be accomplished by pairing individuals’ natural aptitudes with appropriate jobs.  The program was successful.  So successful, the workers wanted their children to be evaluated to help in their education and later jobs.  As the organization grew, the focus switched from corporate productivity to the individual’s job satisfaction, with testing offices in several major cities around the country.

The website and Facebook pages have more on the history, and other’s stories.  GO there for all current information.

The best time is to go BEFORE you plan a major career change or you are unhappy in  your current situation.   You may not need to make a big life change to find satisfaction.  You might only need to channel a missed aptitude outside of work.

By the way, I do not have any financial relationship with JOCRF.  And all the following posts are drawn from personal experience of mine, family and friends.  I don’t always have 20-30 minutes to chat with folks, like at the cash register, about this. Now I can say, read my website/blog to find out more.

Part 2: My First Reaction to JOCRF

Part 3: Impatience equals Problem Solver

More to come…




In Praise of Modifications

(Pic of my Rainbow Nymphalidea shawl)

Nymphalidea shawl, designed by Melinda VerMeer Modified by jio

Most of my knitting friends know me well.  I rarely follow a pattern as written.  Testing knitting, where you want to stay on task for the sake of the designer, is a personal challenge I also enjoy.  My modification usually starts out as a mistake that I’ve just incorporated into the design.  Or if I check the design’s finished projects on Ravelry, I might make some modifications based on recommendations or if I’m really adventurous, strike out on my own.

Melinda VerMeer’s Nymphalidea in Deep Fall 2013 Knitty magazine fell into the last category of modifications.  I loved Melinda’s use of gradient yarn and the simple pattern repeat.  I didn’t care for the parallelogram shape, i.e., ripped it all out.  I wanted a classic crescent-shaped shawl.  It took a few missteps, until I realized that gradually increasing the lace wedge and decreasing the garter welts made a crescent shape.

Melinda contacted several knitters who posted their modified versions of her Nymphalidea shawl design.  I was included!  Here’s a link to her blog post, Customizing patterns with 9 other knitters’ modifications.

Kudos to Melinda encouraging us to use her designs as jumping off points.