Madman With A Box

Creative Self, Making

Just a quick update regarding what’s on my needles right now. And I mean needles, lots of them, because I have several projects going at one time. The irony is, I’m a process knitter, which usually doesn’t jive with project knitting, or at least, the idea of project knitting. However, the reason I have many projects going is probably the same reason people have a different book they’re reading in each room (one of our old school’s media center gals did this), there are different “flavors” for different reasons. I keep several projects going, because, I have social knitting (what I’d take to a knitting lunch or waiting in a pick-up line or an appointment) and non-social knitting, where I can’t be distracted while I’m working on it. So, I have a 1×1 rib Purl Soho Boyfriend Hat for my son to use up my sock yarn stash,

a mistake rib throw for my son (it’s completely great tv project),

and a non pattern scarf for social, and Madman With A Box, Goode and

a Knit Picks Santa Pillow for home.

Here’s a bit of the Madman neckwarmer, I’ve ripped it back three times and it’s not even complicated, but color work is a bugger, and finding and correcting mistakes early is pretty important! And, this pattern has a section on the chart that is not symmetrical, so I really have to pay attention. I knit color work inside out, so I get that little bit of extra length in the floats, which takes a little getting used to, but way worth it. This is for a friend of Owen’s (he has a few friends who are Whovians) and I really enjoy knitting these patterns up. I’d also made a, INSULATE! Dalek Hat for another friend, he loved it, and it’s why I knit for friends of my kid. Sometimes, they’re more appreciative than adults.

a : )



Welcome 2018!

Creative Self

Welcome 2018!

I’ve started this post four times. The first one was on New Year’s Day. But after several tries, I’d decided that waiting a few days into the new year would give me a better perspective. It did, because I think that putting focus on what I have done, instead of just a long list of what I want to do, would be a better use of my time, and better for my psyche.

2017 was not particularly bad for me, in fact, it was pretty terrific (outside of politics). Last year was such a teaching year for me. I’ve gained so much in skill: creatively, emotionally, and physically. Ironically, in the year that I’d added new tech tools to my life, I also spent more of my time with old school making and working with my hands. One day, when I have arthritis, and it’s painful to do these things, I’ll be glad I’d taken this time. In late September, I’d started paring down “things” and living a less chaotic and more organized life. No, to my knowledge I’m not dying. I’m not having some mid-life thingie. I’ve always been anti-procrastination, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t done it (and continue to do it). It really does get you into debt with time and is rarely good, unless you’re waiting for something you really want to go on sale.

Insulate! A dalek stranded hat for a friend of my son, you can find it on Ravelry.

Hat for the Mr.

Putting things off has a lot to do with taking on too much. Where that threshold is, is different for everyone, and we do need to recognize why we’re pulling our hair out over accomplishing something in our free time. If it’s that frustrating or overwhelming, we likely shouldn’t be doing it.  Or, at least have the wiggle room to walk away from it for a little while, and be able to come back to it. There’s enough chaos outside our control (like deadlines) without adding chaos to what is within our control. Our brains have a need to experience boredom. I’m learning to be present, and satisfied with what I have instead of leaning over the fence, comparing. There is nothing wrong with healthy, motivating competition, but it’s destructive when you find yourself feeling bad about what you accomplish (as if it’s not enough) and obsessed with the accomplishments of others.

I’ve reconnected with quite a few friends, and disconnected from a few others. When my kids started middle school years ago, I was so distracted by everything going on, it was a lot to unpack if I’m comparing against elementary school. Now at the high school, things are weirdly less complicated, I can really connect and reconnect better. That said, I’ve been judicious with it. When you have young kids in school, that’s your common denominator. When your kids are older, there are some parents you stay acquainted with, others you don’t, for no other reason than you no longer have anything in common. Staying quiet on some of the social media has really helped me, though I do find myself on Instagram Stories, Twitter, and on Facebook checking in on groups and pages. As much as I resist it, I can’t deny it’s a benefit having everything I want to read in one spot. Pinterest has changed a lot, but I’m adapting it for organization (more about that later). I’ve met new acquaintances, volunteered more for the I things that I really care about and not at all for things that were essentially just ‘face time.’ I think I’m getting a bit closer to being the ‘change I want to see in the world.’

Hopefully, that will cascade to our sons. My husband’s and my most overused phrase this year was “lead by example” and I think it was as much for us as it was for them. If we want our older son to experience certain things, we just need to do those things, and the fact that he is learning to do them isn’t always going to be obvious or a conscious effort on his part. We have to accept that as parents, we’re not always going to get validated instantly, but that validation may come years later, when our kids are living their lives independently of us, making their own choices (I think our younger son’s autism has helped us reacclimate to slow and deliberate expectations). Yesterday, my older son finally hit a high note on his trumpet that has sort of eluded him…for years. His HS band didn’t work at all with scales or getting better at the instrument. They work on learning a song, to play for parents, that’s sort of positive for esteem, but it’s not educating. He could always hit the note he wanted to hit accidentally. The education kicks in when he wants control over when he hits it. He now takes a lesson once a week, and just practices and plays and enjoys. That’s how you get better, by doing things, developing a process. It seems living more deliberately has become more of a trend than a routine. We’re so used to looking busy to others, have we even lied to ourselves about not having time to learn or practice things? I found, when I cut out most of my social media time, and took the time to stare out the window, I learned a lot about myself by what I’m thinking about. Maybe you’re thinking that because I’m writing a post for my blog, that I’m still looking for that validation. Sure, but, it’s my blog, not under an umbrella of a large conglomo. I know it’s not going to have the exposure that my Twitter would have, but I’m not reduced to 280 characters, I’m improving my writing skills. It’s not popular like IG or FB, but I have control over available content, and if you visit a blog, that’s what you see: exactly what YOU wanted, not what an ‘influencer’ wants to corral you into seeing.

French Sourdough Bread

When I switched my blog to a different format years ago, I lost all my blog links. But, I have several new blogs I love to visit and going to add, so if I have a goal for 2018, it will be to get my website and my blog, cohesive and on track. I say that a lot, so another goal is staying organized so that I can also be spontaneous! I don’t want to be in debt with Time, I want to have a savings account for Time. This also includes my wardrobe. Being a care-giver and a gig worker, it’s easy for us to get comfortable in the same tees and jeans for years. Eons ago, when I was in college and later worked in a product development department, I used to draw out things I wanted to make, add a few swipes from Vogue, Elle or Mirabella and then just make the stuff. We had a lot of fun fabric places nearby in Royal Oak and Berkley, and all my friends were punks as well as sewists, artists, stylists, or photographers. Sound like Project Runway or Pretty In Pink? Well, John Hughs took that from fashion students, that’s what everyone did. We had six studio hours a week per class, we had to do something when we got bored with the assignment. So I’m back to planning my closet. What’s fun is now I can use Pinterest for it, and I’ve created a private board with just key items and key colors for me to reference. I’ll sketch them out in a notebook with yardages and colors, and keep it with me. When I find a fabric or yarn I like (esp. if I’m in MI or WI), I’ll have all the info I need right there. If you search Pinterest for “apparel capsules” it will bring up all those familiar Polyvore images. There’s a reason they’re done that way. Being able to make twenty outfits out of ten pieces is terrific! Karen Templar does this on Fringe Association. I’m still working on my Goode sweater, but that will be done before the warm weather, so I will get some mileage out of it this Spring! I’ll post periodically on that, and other knitting and sewing pieces I’m planning. I do have a jacket and some trousers on the horizon.

These will get turned into a really complex stranded neckwarmer for another friend of my son, you can find it on Ravelry: Man With A Box

Also, more creating (I had work in the Over and Over show this year at Columbia University Chicago, worked with some new clients, was contacted by a recruiter of all things, and was featured on Creative Playdate). I have so many ideas that I’d put in a notebook over the Winter Break, I’m bound to flesh out some really good ones. I have slowed down, I have actual working hours and playing hours, I’ve learned a ton of knitting skills, I’m really developing my stranded and color work, and I have been more diligent with my Passion Planner and keeping more than one notebook. I exercise and get sleep regularly already. I’m healthy and I find I have a lot of ideas after some elliptical time. We all put on a couple pounds at the holidays, but I wonder if people would feel more optimistic about exercise if it were as benign and routine as laundry, not an event or worry. For me, it is. Losing weight isn’t a goal, but maintaining is. It’s as important as clean clothes to me. Spending time planning and planting is also exercise, and even if you don’t have a plot of your own land, just a little row of pots, or being part of a community garden does wonders.

I’m happy with my life, I’m grateful for what I have. I AM going to share my Christmas gifts from my guys, they’re so wonderful, and so thoughtful and got extra hugs. Some of these are from Fringe Supply Co., if you’re a maker, and get dry fingertips, the Etta + Billie balms smell gorgeous and feel amazing. Lykke  (pronounced lek’ yuh, or leg’ yuh) is Norwegian for happiness. This is my second needle of theirs and I’m looking forward to working with it. Charley Harper is my all-time favorite illustrator, this is literally the biggest book I’ve ever seen, much less own! It’s also gorgeous…

After reflecting on all of this, I’ve enjoyed 2017, and that’s what I’m going to make an effort to focus on: the good things. There will always be bad things, but, sometimes that makes us do good things (like making lifestyle changes, protesting, or running for office). There are always people who will listen, and help us find our way back. I hope you have a wonderful 2018, and I wish you all the best. You can do it, and you deserve it!

a : )







Farmhouse Bread Blanket

Creative Self

I’ve crafted a pattern. I hope you like it.

I am a maker. I’m also a high-strung introvert. That doesn’t mean any more than it reads. I’ve just always been one to get easily stressed and not share it (and I understand the irony here). I emotionally absorb the stresses from people I care about (whether they know it or not). I am…a fixer. My husband has suggested that I meditate (he does, every morning) but I have difficulty sitting there. Sitting. I’m unable to just sit. Then what? I have to be actively doing something, something tactile. I should say at this point I draw for a living. I’m a surface designer and an illustrator. I do bring my iPad Pro or sketchbook places, but often times I wish I’d not (I’m actually typing this outside, which is completely different than in public). I’ll forget a certain pen, or I’ll start getting into the flow of a sketch and I have to abruptly stop because either I’m in the pick up line and my kids get in the car, or my appointment is ready, then I’m fumbling and putting things away or someone asks what I’m drawing and I don’t want to share it, etc. Drawing in public is a challenge for me, I need to get over my Perfection Factor and make do with what I have. However, knitting in public is not. Knitting is kind of my meditation. It transitions well: busy to still and back to busy again. Then back to still. I don’t need time to get back to it, I can pick up where I left off. When I’m drawing or designing, I need about ten minutes or so to get back to the same level of concentration as when I left my drawing work (full disclosure: I’m not knitting lace or Fair Isle or intarsia, these techniques would need far more concentration than what I’m doing, and would defeat the purpose of why I do it). People can see what I’m doing, ask me about it, sometimes they knit too. I like talking about it, I like listening to others talk about it, I can easily put it away as it doesn’t have the same issues as illustration media, I can put stoppers on my needles and throw everything in a bag… and I’m accomplishing something with even just one row.

Also, being a fixer, I enjoy knitting for those who are not as fortunate as many of us. Currently, I’m making red scarves for the Foster Care To Success Red Scarf Project (I’ll be sending them in September). I’ve made things for my family, a few things for friends, I ask them what they like and have them pick a yarn, and I craft something for them. It’s definitely a charge to see them wear or use it. I love illustrating, but, I really needed a creative “hobby” where I felt I was contributing and I could decompress from drawing. There’s comfort in the fiber arts that I think is only matched by baking. Making something warm for someone who needs it, it’s kind of a hug, even for people who don’t like hugs. Everyone likes scarves, and cookies. It’s making something woolie when you get the squishies for cooler weather. It’s protecting little hands from Jack Frost. It’s being consumed by cinnamon and brown sugar when you open the oven. It’s yearning for something nostalgic and familiar when you need solace.

As makers, we also appreciate the help given to us. Many folks have helped me and don’t even know. I’ve watch so many YouTube vids, listened to podcasts, read blog posts, friends have knitted for me, I’ve combed Ravelry and checked out tons of books from our library (they do have a fiber group I may join, if I don’t chicken out). That last bit gives me access to a lot of free patterns. I have used many from making a cable throw, to handwarmers and hats, to sometimes forging my own for neckwarmers, scarves, even mug warmers. Soon, I’ll be starting my first sweater from Purl Soho (I actually paid for a pattern finally, so I’m feeling confident)!

I wanted to give back something, gratis, paying it forward for all the help I’ve received over the past couple of years, so I’ve created a pattern, the first of what I hope are many. It’s small, and unobtrusive, and if you’re a baker or know someone who is, you might appreciate having it. It’s my little bread blanket. We normally wrap our rolls or bread in a clean dish towel, but I dunno, that feels impersonal and rushed. Like, we just baked this lovely thing, it should be tucked in with something equally lovely.

This is a sweet, little project with a purpose. It’s a charming upgrade to those cute, striped vintage tea towels and it can cleanse the palette between bigger knitting projects, or when you want to make a gift but just can’t stomach another hat. The billowy mini cable offers insulation while the yarn will absorb condensation. It’s simple but not boring, easy to take out in public, uses cotton (or a blend) yarn, and gauge isn’t crucial. It’s a good novice project and could be adjusted with different stitches in the MC to accommodate evolving skills (but may change the multiples in your cast on). And, you can make a few of these over the hot summer, to keep all your fall baked gifts warm! This is my first published pattern, so please be kind if you find mistakes, but by all means, let me know, or ask any questions you may have, I’ll answer them to the best of my ability. I’ve also added a photo of a second blanket in the opposite palette.

A slightly different stitch (really just a cable without the purls), which I haven’t added here, but wanted to give a good visual when using a darker color with the light stripe.

Approx. Finished size: 11″ x 17″

Yarn: Gauge is not crucial for this pattern. I’m using Sugar & Cream Super Size in Ecru (MC) and Blue Jean (CC). One skein (100g) of each MC and CC in Bernat Handicrafter DeLux; Knit Picks Dishie and CotLin; or whatever you like to knit with that’s washable and contains natural fibers. You can create two blankets from the two colors, if you flip the MC and CC color positions for your second blanket.

Needle: I knit this flat on a US size 7 bamboo circular needle. Naturally, you should use what you’re comfortable with for the yarn you’ve chosen.

Cast on: Multiples of 4 plus 1 if you wish to change the width. Keep in mind that you may need additional yarn if making this larger.

I slip the last stitch of a row: purlwise on the knit side (bring yarn to front, slip stitch to right needle); knitwise on the purl side (bring yarn to back, slip stitch to right needle). You don’t have to do this, but it gives me a finished edge.

I give instructions for my CC stripe but you can clearly make yours with an alternating pattern you like. If you want to keep a vintage, rustic farmhouse feel, I recommend keeping your palette to two colors.

Farmhouse Bread Blanket

Cast on 53 stitches (I used long tail).

Mini Cable:


Row 1:  *P1, K3; rpt from *, end P1

Row 2 & 4:  *K1, P3; rpt from *, end K1

Row 3:  *P1, Skip 2 sts, K third st on LH needle, K first st, K second st, then sl all three sts off LH needle; rpt from *, end P1 (note: leave sts on LH needle until all three have been worked, then sl to the RH needle. If you own the Vogue Stitchionary 1, this stitch is on page 44).

Repeat Rows 1-4 six times

Row 25:  *P1, K3; rpt from *

Row 26:  *K1, P3; rpt from *

Repeat this pattern five times


Change to CC

Repeat this pattern four times


Change to MC

Repeat this pattern two times


Change to CC

Repeat this pattern two times


Change to MC

Repeat this pattern four times


Staying with MC

Repeat Rows 1-4 (mini cable stitch) twelve times

BO in pattern, weave in ends, block, bake something delish and cover!

Mini Cable Stitch



Sweet Little Life


John Burroughs wrote, “What a severe yet master artist old Winter is…. No longer the canvas and the pigments, but the marble and the chisel.” Describes winter perfectly in the Midwest. I start seeds, indoors, every spring. After a frigid, marblesque winter (even though it wasn’t terrible this past year) I have a need to get my hands in dirt. The smell of the seed mix is really therapeutic, and going through the routine of planning, and researching and planting helps me practice mindfulness (which really helps me with stress). This year, I’d started them a bit later, and ironically, this is the most that have survived: varieties and volume! I really can’t plant them outside until after Memorial Day. I was supposed to make covers over our hoops to act as greenhouses, but I just didn’t get to it. Not completely my fault, in two weeks I’ll have a HS Freshman…My mind is all over the place. *heavy sigh*


Zinnias and Emily Basil

Teeny Monarda (Bee Balm, they’re all there, they’re just hard to see until the leaves open)

Peppers (four varieties)

Geraniums and Cilantro 

Tomatoes (six heirloom varieties)

Zinnias (eight varieties)

Marigolds (two varieties)

Purple Opal Basil 


One tiny Nemesia

Lettuce (two varieties, direct sow)

Beets (three varieties, direct sow)

Our chives. This guy has been with us for 24 years! Came from our first house, all the way from Michigan. ❤️