Shortly before I finished the Jeep blanket and started making horses, I made a moose! This has quickly become the style that I prefer for land animals, and was definitely the main inspiration behind the new horse design.

I made this little guy for a friend's nephew, and he has loved it ever since! Adter getting it, I hear he only parted with it for a short time: so Grandpa could play too.

There are a few things I absolutely love about the moose. The brown works really well for his coloring, and I'm glad to have been able to add this color to my stash. My favorite coloring choice is using Red Heart's "Woodsy" yarn for the antlers. It fits so perfectly, and I would easily be able to incorporate it other ways. I love the look that the verigation gives the moose. I also really love how the purple eyes still pop off the brown.

 
 

One of the biggest projects I've been working on long term is centered around a gift for my sister. She drives a Jeep Wrangler, and when I saw Red Heart's verigated yarn called "Woodsy," I knew I needed to do something for her Jeep with it. It's no secret that I really like Jeeps, or that it gets pretty cold here in Minnesota (polar vortex, anyone?). So, I decided to make her a blanket.

In knitting the blanket, I used a moss stitch with Caron's "beige" one pound skeins of yarn. By doubling the yarn, I was able to get a thick, chunky look with it. I decided to use my normal moss stitch with the body to give it a subtle but sophisticated pattern.

For the border, I definitely went outside my normal, and I attached the "Jeep yarn" - as we've begun to call it - to the edges with a Tunisian crochet technique to cast on. From there, I used a garter stitch to keep the edges lying flat and differentiating it from the rest of the body.

In the back of the Jeep, it blends almost seamlessly with the beige upholstery. With the exterior envelope of the vehicle closed, it is now impossible to see just how many boxes of Girl Scout cookies are covered by the blanket. The size stretches perfectly across the back of the vehicle, and it will provide plenty of security when it's not providing some warmth.

Since this project took so much time - about ten months, I decided to experiment with some of the leftover yarn, and I've created a new design for the new year.

In the Chinese zodiac, we have entered the year of the horse! Since I know a lot babies are to be born this year (including mine), I knew I should experiment with another prototype of the yearly animal. I've loved doing these for the past two years (the snake for 2013 and the dragon for 2012), and I'm really excited about the execution of this one.

Since the Jeep blanket project took so much time and this horse is made in the same yarn, I decided to add it to the package for my sister.

One of my favorite details is the verigated yarn for the hooves, mane, and tail. That is a detail that I'm going to try to keep consistent with any of the ones I make. I'm really excited to see how many of these will come out over the course of the next year.

 
 
It's no secret that I've been absent from here for the past few months (November 8th?!?), but it's not for lack of things being made and big changes coming up the road!  So, before I show you one of my newest projects I'll fill you in on the news:

1) I'm just about 29 weeks pregnant!  If you follow my twitter (@handmadekatie), you may have already known with how many #pregnancy and #pregnancyproblems postings I've had.  It's not been an easy ride... but that's what happens with identical twins!  Gender is still a secret, but I will write that since they are identical, we are getting two of the same gender.  So, I've been working on a few small things for the babes, but mostly it's been filled with wonder and plenty of awe.  I'm so happy with the advances we've seen in medical science that has made this high risk pregnancy continue to last.

2) I graduated from The Art Institutes International - Minnesota in December with my second degree.  This one is an AAS in Interior Design.  There really should be no big surprises there, and I'm itching to use some of these new skills!  I'm hoping to continue to advance my skills and my career here and elsewhere with the impending arrival of our babies.  To check out my online design portfolio: click here.

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Now, without further adieu, here is one of my newest projects!  It was set for destruction earlier today... It's a dragon pinata! I could not be happier with how this project came out, and I'm so lucky to have been able to do this for a friend who has helped us a ton recently - this was made for her daughter's birthday.

The construction process itself was really fun and interesting:  the final product really only has 5 "ingredients:" 
- construction paper
- scotch tape
- tissue paper
- glue and water mix
- candy
- For those who may be insistent, I can include marker ink on the list as well.

The process itself was most difficult with establishing the structure of the beast.  I used rolled up construction paper to build each round component of the body.  This included the main body, head, neck, and legs.  These were construction paper rolled into cylinders and taped.  The connecting areas were the most difficult: creating paper cones for the chest area between the body and the neck and for connecting the body to the tail were the most difficult areas to really shape and attach smoothly.  But once these were in place, I was able to fill the body with candy and seat it off.  

From there, I attached the remaining cylindrical features to the main body and connective cone pieces.  I tried to keep these transitions between sheets of paper as smooth as possible while striking a balance between strong enough to hold the weight of the candy (probably 90% of the total weight) and stay fragile enough for its inevitable destruction.  I smoothed a lot of the areas by making sure the tapered cone sections would be close in size to each surrounding area.

I then went on to add some of the structural details: the flat sheet for the tail, additional connecting sheets for the back and head ridges, the feet, and the wings.  These were some of the easiest areas to assemble, but really made the whole look cohesive.  With the exception of the lower portion of the tail, these also were covered in tissue paper using a mixture of Elmer's School Glue and water (no need for Mod Podge, this works just fine).

For adding the tissue paper, this was one of the easier tasks, since the dragon was structurally complete, but it was one of the most time consuming tasks of the project.  I divided the dragon into sections.  I started with the head, neck, and tail ridges on one side, and painted the tissue paper in place with the glue/water mixture.  In order to apply the same method on the other side, I had to let the first side dry, since this was a single sheet of construction paper.

Once the head and neck ridges were done, I started adding green tissue paper to the body.  I started at the head and worked my way along the neck ridges toward the tail: making sure to steer under the wings.  I applied one side at a time, and I was able to complete a side while the other dried, since this was a one-sided application.  I avoided the legs and belly area, so I could make sure these would be completely covered as the kids would see the dragon from every angle, and I would need to approach this area later.  To move forward, I had to wait for the body to dry.

Next, I moved on to applying a coating the wings.  This process was much the same as the back ridges, but the tissue paper seemed to add some additional structure to the wings and hold these to look more like the dragon was flying.  I couldn't have been happier.

After the wings dried, I was able to tip the dragon on its sides to finish the belly, legs, and feet.  The small amount of two-sided application on feet allowed me to cover these all at once, and I was able to get a smooth transition from the legs and the belly to the rest of the body.

Once it was completely dry and essentially complete, something still seemed missing: so I grabbed some of my markers, added some green scale lines to the body, and finished it off with a set of eyes and quirky smile.

Overall, I am so happy with how this guy turned out, and I cannot wait to hear about how it fared in its slaying. 

Thank you,
Katie Swanson
 

Quick Flap Mittens

11/08/2013

 
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Over the past few months, I haven't had as much time to knit and craft as I would like, but last weekend, I had the wonderful opportunity to create two pairs of flap mittens for a great cause.  

Over the past eight months, a family member of mine has been battling breast cancer.  As a single mom, this has come with plenty of struggles with her health, but also with making ends meet in the endless struggle against bills and finances - which should be the last thing on someone's mind when she is fighting for survival.

So, a cousin of hers came up with a phenomenal idea to throw her a pancake breakfast and silent auction.  The breakfast itself was a total blast, and in preparation, I offered to make a couple donation items in my space time.  These couple pairs of mittens were fun and easy to make in some of my standardized sizes.

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As an a-typical set up for me, these were made standardized to a men's large and a women's medium size mittens.  The biggest challenge I faced was understanding the standardization of sizes as opposed to my usual custom creations.  

I've made pairs in plenty of custom sizes for different people, so it was interesting to let these two pairs go without a real sense of end-result fit.  The biggest concession I made was to leave these as an open top mitten with a flap instead of knitting individual fingers.  The logic was so these would fit with more hand sizes than my normal customized flap mittens.

 

New Painting

10/11/2013

 

I suppose I have no fancy excuse for my absence in writing over the few months, although I must say my mind has been quite occupied lately! So, you deserve a little explaination before I show the progress on my current painting.

I'm in my last quarter in school for interior design, and my last quarter was a huge challenge! With four very difficult classes, there were definitely days that it was hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But now that I'm here and in only two more classes until graduation, I'm glad to see my progress.

My husband and I are also delighted by news that we are expecting twins this spring! While it's still too early to determine genders, I cannot wait to dive into more baby projects! We couldn't be more excited by the news, and I cannot wait for spring to get here!

With that, I'm working another underwater painting, this time inspired by jellyfish! So far, it's coming along, but I definitely have my work cut out for me with adding glazes and getting some strong dimension into this one.

 
 
PictureBefore: the couch and shelves sit opposite the walkway.

Rearranging furniture initially may seem like a frivolous task, but even the way furniture is laid out in a room can make a huge difference to how the space is used and how welcoming it seems to visitors.  This is especially true when single rooms contain multiple functional spaces.

Before changing the furniture layout in my dad's space, I definitely thought about a few things: 
  • How he uses the space.
  • Making the living area more conversational.
  • Considerations for way-finding.

PictureBefore: the dining area and desk are squished on the wall.
After taking measurements, it seemed that the space itself had challenges in multi-functionality.  The overall space measured 13' 8" by 10' 6".  So, I planned on fitting the dining area, office area, and living room.

The first thing I did was sit in the club chair and try to understand the way my dad sees the space on a daily basis.  So, I closed my left eye, since he is blind on his left side (he was born with unilateral retinoblastoma and has had a prosthetic glass eye since he was two).  Immediately, I realized that in order to see whomever is on the couch, he would have to turn nearly sideways.


Check out more including the "after" pictures after the jump!


 
 
I've finished my second pair of boots!  After several months of work, I started these in November, I finally finished these boots for my older sister.  These turned out absolutely perfect, and I can't believe how great these turned out.  These are fully lined, with a contrasting fold over. The process of hand knitting these was quite a bit longer than with the first pair.  The fold was quite a bit longer, and the contrast made the process of the top portion much more time consuming and complicated to complete.

While I've been working on these for a while, and I've mainly based these on the prototype I made at the end of last year, I also created a custom stitch pattern for these and adapted a color pattern for the fold over.  I combined these with some of the double knit techniques that I learned last December.
Read more after the jump!

 
 
As I sit, happily through the first half of my "working vacation" in New York, I can't help but reflect on the past year and the changes and choices that I have made to bring me here tonight.  It has certainly been an interesting twelve months, and even though my "interesting" birthdays are mostly over (since I'm now 26, and my golden birthday was last year), I can't help but really start to appreciate the changes I've made.

Back in October, I made the leap - with my family's blessing - to go back to school and really pursue interior design. So far, it feels like the best decision I've made in years.  I've truly been able to learn and explore something I'm very passionate about, but my one regret would have to be the neglect this page has suffered in the meantime. 
(I promise I'm nearly done with those boots!  They'll be the first thing I write about in July!)

While interior design is what brought me here, there were a few things really missing today.  It was a nearly perfect birthday: dinner with a friend, some project work, and a very laid back kind of day.  There were some missing pieces: I can't help but think of my husband, and even my dog and cat, and how much I miss them today.  I don't normally get homesick, but today it's fair to say that I'm a little family-sick instead.

 
 
While I have been working hard in school, I am ecstatic to write that classes have been going wonderfully, even if these have been consuming my time!

Despite a lack of evidence, I'm also happy to write that the boots I've been working on for months are practically done! All that is left is sewing on the rest of the buttons.

Onto the interior: this week my project is fairly simple. For school, I'm in New York exploring life in Manhattan. But I'm really lucky since my dad already lives here! So, I've already come out to the city, even though the rest of the class won't be here until Wednesday. So, while I'm here, I plan to at least rearrange some things in my dad's main living space! It may not seem like much, but space planning is a huge part of making living space efficient.

 
 

After having some moderate success in planting basil in my counter garden last year, I've exploded with indoor and outdoor plants!

Inside, I've added dill and chives to my kitchen, plus a beautiful flowering Saintpaulina that I got as a gift from my speech students. The dill is coming in lovely, even though I just transplanted it last Friday.

We've added a ton of new plants to the outdoor garden, including a massive oregano plant that was split off of a huge plant.

Some of my favorites are the barberry bushes we've collected, and I can't wait to get all of these in the ground. One is already flowering in the pot, and it's adding some lovely color to the front porch.

The other plant that I'm excited to see flower is the irises I planted yesterday. The little line of yellow flowers in front of the side garden is going to be so pretty and line the space very well.

It's been a lot of really fun work watching everything come together, and I'm so happy to see the fruits of our labor.