New look, new resolve

I hope you will find the new blog design and layout cleaner and more inviting to read. I certainly feel encouraged to come over here and write more.

I’ve noticed, as I’m sure you have, a large number of year-end summary posts detailing the various accomplishments and industry of other knitters and crafters. “I should make one of those,” I thought briefly, before I was discouraged by a sorry lack of productivity to show for myself.

The funny thing is that, while I have excuses aplenty (full-time school, overwhelming personal life stuff, busying myself with NYC) it’s not that I haven’t been knitting. I actually knit quite often, but I am not finishing anything. Or if I do, I’ll leave out some tiny but super-important step, like weaving ends in a scarf or hat, or sewing buttons on a sweater.

I don’t want to do that anymore. It’s lazy and silly of me, and I’d like to finish these projects and put them to use. So the good news is, very soon I’ll have a pile of imminent FOs to show you. The bad news is, you’ll probably have to wait until 2012. But since that’s right around the corner, I’m calling it all good.

Coincident with turning over a new crafting leaf (since really, you would not believe how important crafts are to maintaining my sanity), I’m drumming up a new set of Crafting Resolutions. (You’ll note I said Crafting, not just Knitting, wink wink.)

2012 Crafting Resolutions

  • Gather together all nearly-finished projects and block, sew on buttons, weave in ends, or perform any finishing tasks to transform them to FOs.
  • Finish at least one project each month (including photographing it and posting it here).
  • Make long overdue gifts for my family: Cobblestone Pullover for my father, Cable-Down Raglan for my mother, Oiled Wool Hat and matching gloves for my brother.
  • Knit a sweater using the yarn I bought in Iceland (related: tell the internet all about my trip to Iceland).
  • Make at least one pillow from the number of pillow kits I obsessively accumulate.
  • Learn to use my sewing machine, and sew at least four projects.
  • Branch out with needlepoint, cross-stitch, crewel work, etc.
  • Do not buy any more yarn or crafting supplies until marked progress has been made on finishing some major projects.

These resolutions probably look pretty familiar to those of years past, and alas, they may be my perpetual crafting goals. This year, however, I have a plan, and I hope you will enjoy watching it unfold.

Knitting Photography and Blogging

I made an observation the other day, while looking at my projects on Ravelry.

Almost all of my current projects use either outdated photos, old photos, or images of yarn as their thumbnails.

I made another observation while making a spreadsheet of my current WIPs to form a queue-within-a-queue, as it were, for finishing (I swear, this is completely normal behavior): I have a growing list of projects that are finished but not blogged, for want of photography.

These two observations brought me to the problematically obvious conclusion: I have become lazy about photographing my knits.

As a consequence, I have also been a very bad absentee knit-blogger, which makes me a little sad. I started this blog in part because I loved photographing and writing about my knitting projects. I like making a record of the things I do, making images of my work in its very best light, and remembering what I thought in the excitement of finishing a project. Yes, I have a big shelf in my closet with sweaters, a basket overflowing with hand-knit socks, and another basket started with hats and wintry accessories. But it’s not the same, somehow, to look at a stretched-out sock in need of washing, as to glance lovingly at that same sock when it was first knit, showcased in some of my favorite shoes or shot with a macro lens to show off its tiny, lovely stitches.

Another, and more primary, aspect of knit-blogging that I do really love is the community. I’ve “met” such lovely and interesting people through this modest little blog, and I feel like I’ve cut myself off from that discussion by ceasing to contribute for such long stretches.

I have already enumerated in the past some of the reasons I’ve struggled with photographing my knits, chief among them a lack of attractive lighting/background options, a lack of spare hands to shoot for me, hating the way I look in everything including hand-knits a lot of the time, and of course, the persistent belief that if I try another day, I can get better light/background/help/be thinner etc.

I think another reason I’ve been hesitant about photographing and blogging my knits is that there is a lot of pressure, perceived or real, among knit-bloggers to take the most exquisite, saturated, artistic, and flattering photographs of knits possible. No doubt, some of the photography I’ve seen in knit blogs has rivaled or even topped the images published in knitting books or magazines, and some of it comes close to fine art photography. But the reality is that most knitters do not double as professional photographers, most knitters are not fashion models, and it’s unrealistic to believe that every image can – or should – come out at the level of something that was professionally lit, styled, composed, and processed.

I didn’t start a knitting blog because I wanted to become a professional photographer. I’m already an artist, I make images (yes, including photographs) as their own art form, and the same way I don’t create oil paintings of my knits, I don’t really need to belabor the photo documentation as if I were making fine photography portraits or doing catalogue work.

I am hereby releasing myself from the pressure of knit-porn style photography. I will try to take nice, pleasant images that showcase the knitting’s detail, but I don’t want to replace quality in knitting with fetishistic photography.

Adding to my struggle is the recent and incredibly upsetting breakdown of my beloved digital SLR. I genuinely love that camera, and when its electronics malfunctioned and shut down, I felt a bit like I’d just learned a friend had a terminal illness. I’m going to see if I can get it repaired, and if it’s too expensive, start saving up for a new camera body. Any of these options will take time, and it seems silly to keep avoiding my knitting blog until I’ve restored my camera equipment to full capacity.

So that leaves me with a point-and-shoot, poor February light, a lot of frustration on my part, the continued struggle to find good backgrounds and take flattering photos of myself (I live alone now), and the earnest desire to get back into knit-blogging even if it means shoddy photos for a bit.

And that is going to be just fine. We’re not here to talk about photographs – we’re here for the knitting. I miss connecting with people, learning about their lives, and enjoying their knitting and crafting along with them. Let’s do more of that, please.

I’m back

I have a huge amount of life events that have gone on since the last post in this blog, and it took me significantly longer than I thought it would to get around to fixing this site. Ditto with my personal blog, which I only just got back up and running yesterday. I doubt that what you see right now will be the final look of this blog, as I know I have a number of tweaks and adjustments to make, but I am aiming for something generally simpler, cleaner, and easier to maintain.

I do have a lengthy catch-up post planned if you are interested in where I’ve been all this time and what I’ve been doing. Some of the bigger events:

  • I finished both master’s theses and completed my MFA/MS degree (finally!!!)
  • I started a second bachelor’s degree in Chemistry (long story – I’ll explain soon)
  • I went on an amazing trip to Iceland with my mother
  • I spent the rest of the summer in New Jersey
  • I’ve moved out of my parents’ house and back to NYC!

Of course, I have a fairly impressive pile of FOs to show you, as well as new projects in the works, photo essays I’ve got planned, and a number of other knitterly things.

My knitting projects and stash are still in New Jersey, but they should be joining me soon enough, and with the seductive scent of fall in the air, I think it’s the perfect time to get back into knitting and blogging. I look forward to starting anew!

Why haven’t I been blogging?

Usually when you title a blog post with a question, it implies that that question will be answered and perhaps remedied, rather than contemplated at length, but I can’t make such a promise in this instance.

My interest in blogging certainly waxes and wanes, both here and on my regular blog. I have a plethora of “life excuses,” including another long trip to Italy in October and November that I forgot to mention, crazy lots of stuff going on at work, and all kinds of illnesses ranging from bronchitis with borderline pneumonia (which almost prevented that Italy trip) and my current malady, swine flu. Bleh.

This blog, unlike my everyday blog or my non-sequitor Twitter and Facebook updates, is so focused in its subject that if I don’t have something specific to say about knitting or crafts, I tend not to say it.

More to the point, the way I “say” things here is largely through photography. It’s not that the words are just spacers between photos – I care a lot about those too – but I am not likely to write about a project if I don’t have photos.

(People who read a lot of knitting blogs are probably all “Ha, photography, that old chestnut!”)

I used to live in a light-filled apartment, with a photographer. It’s not that he shot my knits for me (at least not without some begging), but our whole apartment was set up in a way that was conducive to shooting (along with painting). We had white counter-tops and white windowsills, white desktops, off-white curtains and white walls that wouldn’t distort colors, and plenty of fill lamps and photography stuff that would block out the clutter or shadows or what have you. If I needed to take modeled shots, I lived in Brooklyn and was never shy for a backdrop.

Now I am living in my parents’ house, where there is very little consistent light. Every room is a different color, and there are all kinds of furniture and decorations (lovely stuff, of course). You’d think this would make for easier shooting, since it should be more interesting (and unlike our apartment, it’s usually very clean), but I struggle to find anywhere that doesn’t overpower the knits themselves with pattern and texture. More often than not, when I am shooting my knitting projects, I find myself laying them out on a large sheet of drawing paper on my bed or resorting to the top of the washing machine, to get a neutral background.

It should have been easier in the summer, since my parents have a truly lovely garden, but I struggled with boats, coolers, neighboring houses, and so forth always intruding in the background. And while my mother is patient and a very talented photographer, she doesn’t seem to understand, the way my ex-boyfriend did, that sometimes I need a couple dozen photos to get one where I don’t look agonizingly awkward and uncomfortable.

That said, I haven’t fully sorted out the photography situation, but I will at least make some attempts soon. I have quite a growing pile of FOs, which I’ve been mentioning since the spring, and I’m either lacking proper photos or am fairly dismally unhappy with those that I have. But I’m going to work on them and try to get back in the habit of posting more frequently.

I’m really looking forward to it.