Monday, August 24, 2015

Challenge One: Knit Your Life


Crash and Burn


What the Hell Was I Thinking

Take your pick or come up with a title of your own, just about anything which has an air of derisiveness would be perfect.

To save some time and get this post rolling below are the videos announcing the first Challenge and my progress video, we will discuss after viewing.

And so there you go.  Obviously I missed the mark.  I took a huge bite of the autobiographical apple and pretty much missed the underlying purpose of the challenge.  The purpose being an end product which someone else would want to knit.  I basically dismissed that part, not entirely, but enough.  I still stand behind this design as far as it being a easy top down raglan, with an interesting detail technique.  Do I stand behind the color choice?  Not in a million years.  I was thinking at the time, (oh how erroneously) that it was design for the sake of design and a statement piece, not an end product. Seriously, who in their right mind would knit this IN THESE COLORS?!?!?! (says the woman who wears pretty much nothing but black) But to my way of thinking at the time, color is such an easy thing to change, it is the easiest thing to change in a garment whose design is NOT color based so I went bold for the 'wow' factor our challenge guidelines had told us to go for. I pushed beyond my own sensibility to use colors most people associate with joy to represent the joy I have in my life. It's as simple as that. Oy.

note to self: never compromise your sensibilities, design for you and not for some poorly thought out notion of what you think someone else wants.

I used the drop stitch to symbolize the mishaps, tragedies, trials and tribulations that life throws at a person.  And then I used the (eye searingly bright) rainbow hues to mend those travesties into something new but which became a part of the new but different whole; the same kind of thing of what happens to a person when they find the strength to go forward in life. To achieve this new but different whole after dropping the stitches I mended the "wound" using the resulting horizontal threads.  This is something I really enjoy doing, but perhaps not for everyone.  I suspect most people after knitting a tunic length garment would much prefer to be done with it after the ends have been woven in and the garment has been blocked. That is not the case here, the weaving takes a fair amount of time more, thus another reason this design crashed and burned, and rightfully so. :)  Thankfully for my sake there were no eliminations during the challenges, cuz surely I would have been gone after this fiasco!!!!

second note to self: get a grip, you're in a design contest sponsored by a yarn distributor, they want to sell yarn and have patterns NORMAL people want to knit.

So there you have it, right out of the gate on the very first challenge I failed. Miserably and completely.  Meh.  It didn't bother me much I had begun with the belief that merely being chosen as one of the 12 was winning enough, regardless of how the rest of the contest unfolded. I along with my fellow contestants, had already won the biggest prize.  But being so decidedly at the bottom of the heap (with my fully in agreement self-judgement) I was able to watch and see my fellow contestants without any emotional baggage and that's when it hit me full force and haunted me for quite sometime. It was the notion which niggled at my thoughts from the very first day after I had sent in my application.

Why was I doing this?  Because I like to design things.

Ok fine good answer, next question:

Do I want a career designing knitwear?

Do I have any desire to write and sell knitting patterns?

Have I ever had any desire to write and sell knitwear patterns?


BUT most, if not all, of these people did!  As too, I'm fairly confident, did the others who had sent in applications but were not chosen as one of the twelve. Damn. I was in this contest with no desire to parlay it into anything else.  I did not and would not have a career kickstarted nor did I already have a career which would benefit from the exposure.  Taking a spot as one of the contestants without having any future plans meant I was possibly stealing someone else's dreams. It hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks.  There were no more "niggling" thoughts in the back of my brain, this was full on, and the guilt was almost more than I could handle. It went against every fiber of my being. I had believed all my life that my one true sole purpose was to help and facilitate others to obtain their dreams.  Its the one and only reason I became a school teacher. And now I found myself in the very real position of being the impenetrable road block in someone's journey.

Somehow I was going to have to get around this and make it right.  I didn't know how I'd do it, cuz that guilty plaid elephant was enormous, but I'd begin with paying heed to the aforementioned notes to myself, design to the best of my ability with my voice in my way AND pay attention to what a normal person might want to knit. That second one was going to be the most difficult.  And thus began the switch in my thinking from this was something silly and fun to do, to this was something that meant something to people and I would respect their feelings by taking this contest more seriously and do my best.  Well, do my best and have fun doing it.  ;)  One thing which would remain the same though, I refused to view any of the challenges as anything more than self challenges.  I refused to look at this weird thing I had gotten myself in too as a competition which pitted me against anyone else.  As I stated before, I truly believed just being chosen had been the biggest prize and we had all won. The challenges which would follow? Those would be challenges against myself, alone, not against them.

Ok enough of that, pretty sure I've waxed philosophical way too much and dove into the depths of what I was thinking way deeper than anyone cares to go so how about photos of "Totality" the crash and burn design from Challenge One: Knit Your Life. Laughing and giggling ARE allowed and frankly encouraged.  If I've made you smile today then all is not for naught.

Now how about a very good design?  

The Challenge One Winner by Talitha Kuomi 


Tal is one of the very BEST things that happened to me during the contest. Hugs my friend!

(Unfortunately Nigamo is not available at this time but will be soon.)

Please follow any of the links below to get to know Tal if you don't know her by now!  I can't imagine you won't find a must-knit-now pattern in her catalog.

ravelry: talithakuomi
twitter: @talithakuomi
instagram: talithakuomi
pinterest: talithakuomi

The judging videos for Challenge One can be found here and here.

Up next:  Challenge Two: Color Inside the Box or Inspiration? What is That????

Monday, August 17, 2015

Meet the Contestants

I was in the beginning stages of realizing what madness I had willing and without much thought, jumped into with both feet..............

Saturday April 6th 2013, at the Vogue Knitting Event in Seattle, the 12 contestants for The Fiber Factor were announced and I was one of them. That evening an email was sent informing the 12 of us we had been chosen as the contestants.  We were also told to watch for a box of goodies which would arrive on Monday the 8th, the same day the first challenge was to be announced.


And at the time I WAS excited.  This really was a pretty cool thing to be chosen for and involved in! And YIKES it was going to start on Monday!!!

The email also gave us some info on what the challenge was.  Yes, we did get a sneak peek at the first challenge being put to us before you guys did.  ;)  Also included in the announcement email, was the video schedule. Now lets take a look at this a minute. This was the point where it all got very very real.

April 6th approximately 9:30pm CST :
-We have a challenge outlined before us.

April 8th:
-The challenge will be announced publicly
-A bag of "goodies" will arrive.

April 10th by 10:00am:
-Yarn order must be emailed with our preference of which addi click set we would like.

April 11th:
-Yarn order will arrive

-Introduction video due

April 22nd:
-Second video due, topic: My thoughts on the challenge. What and why yarn did I use? What was my inspiration? What is the design?

May 1st:
-Third video due, topic: Presenting and explaining the final piece to the judges, discuss the inspiration, techniques, and how the piece meets the challenge.

Oh my!

Let's examine this timeframe/predicament I had put myself in:

Saturday 9:30pm - Wednesday 10:30am =  85 hours

85 hours to design something in accord with the challenge description, choose the proper yarn and order said yarn.  hmmmm  it could be done under normal circumstances, on a good day, no problem, but these didn't feel like normal circumstances.

The list of yarns, there were 13 of them, were yarns I was NOT familiar with. They were wool, mohair, alpaca, silk, linen, cotton yarns and blends, in weights from lace to super bulky. A couple of them weren't even on the market yet, if I remember correctly!!!  No, this didn't feel like normal circumstances.

I wondered who the other crazy/adventurous people who had found themselves facing the same set of circumstances as I were.  My curiosity was piqued to say the least.

Technically the individual introduction videos linked below were not available at this point. I only knew these people by name from the flurry of emails which went back and forth between us, the contestants, and "Chuck", some guy from Skacel I didn't know nor had ever heard of.


I did get a snippet glimpse of them on the Meet the Contestants video!

Shortly thereafter during the course of Challenge One the individual introduction videos were released. I'm stepping away from the historic timeline of The Fiber Factor for the sake of continuity and will address all things Challenge One in the next post but today is Meet the Contestants day. Today we "meet" or reacquaint ourselves with the other brave souls who had walk, soared, stumbled, and sometimes scraped their knees as I had during that journey.  We are a unique bunch.  No one has lived to tell the tale as we can, nor it seems, will anyone be able to do so in the future.  sigh.

I guess it is only fitting since this is my blog, the first Introduction video I load here is my own. Remember that guy Chuck I mentioned earlier?  From that point on he became my guardian angel so to speak.  For each video due I sent him multiple snippets of raw video and he did his magic.  My "official" introduction video below is a melding of snippets from my original application video which you saw in a previous post and the multitude of raw snippets I sent him for the introduction video. Behold the magic of Chuck!

Funny, he didn't include any part of this snippet it kinda captures the level of crazy I was in at the time.  ;)

Chuck and I didn't know each other very well at the time.  Ha, "very well?!?" we didn't know each other at all!  But over the course of the game, we became true friends, and I am so very glad he is in my life.  ::smooches::

And now onward to the real videos.  First up is a link to the entire playlist of the individual videos, this link will introduce you to each contestant, one right after the other without the need for multiple link clicking.  Below that link are the individual links to each contestants meet and greet video and a little bit of contact info they have given me.

Meet Contestant Full Play List

Meet Talitha Kuomi!

ravelry: talithakuomi
twitter: @talithakuomi
instagram: talithakuomi
pinterest: talithakuomi



Ravelry: girlyknits
Twitter: girlyknits
Instagram: girlyknits


facebook: Steve May






Up next: Challenge One or Crash and Burn, What Was I Thinking!?!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Whoa, What Have I Done?

March 21, 2013 at 4:42 I received an email which said in part:

"You are now officially entered, and you are being considered to be a contestant in The Fiber Factor!"


The announcement of the chosen 12 would be made on Saturday April 6th, 2013 at 7:30ish at the Vogue Knitting Live Gala Dinner in Seattle. The first Challenge would be announced Monday April 8th. 

Hmmmm a little over two weeks for me to contemplate the consequences of my actions and this is what I figured. What had started as something silly to do for laughs, could maybe become a reality and quite frankly I didn't think I wanted to do it. The full impact of what I had just done had finally hit me. 

First off let me give you a bit of a insight on the kind of person I am, or at least was, or am still, but an obviously modified version thereof. ;) Whatever descriptor you want to use, I am a hermit, an introvert, a very private person. The things I create are from me, of me and for me. Notice the word "me" in that last sentence, and how frequently it occurs?!? Most of my family, including my husband, rarely, if ever, actually see the things I'm working on. My work is done in my own private world into which I rarely allow anyone to enter. 

Um yeah.....I didn't think this thing through now did I? 



I would have to show people my work!  I would have to make videos of myself! I would have to talk to people! I would have to do my work on someone else's timeline and not let the wind blow me in whatever direction I felt like on any given day! It had been years since I had a job and while I had throughly enjoy being in the workforce at one point in my life, I gladly stepped away from it when Joe made it possible for me to do so. And now this.  I had possibly put myself in a situation which was completely and totally the antithesis of who I was. 






I really, really REALLY did NOT think this through!!

And as the tv ads say: But wait there's more!

Another demon was gnawing at me.  I had even stated in my application I had never been interested in a job/career in the knitting industry. And yet here I was applying for a contest which could in fact throw me into such a thing.  Sure, if any opportunity did arise from participating in the contest, I didn't have to accept it.  I could just crawl back into my cave and forget the whole thing ever happened. But, and that is a big, huge, ginormous BUT, wasn't that the purpose of the contest?  One of the stated reasons for the contest was to find the next new knitwear designer!  That is when the guilt crept in. What if I was, chosen to be one of the 12?!?  What if because I was chosen some gifted designer missed their shot at being noticed?  I have to confess, I came very close to withdrawing my application.  I spoke to a lot of people about my guilty feelings.  I had looked at the contest as just a game I'd be playing against myself, for once I'd let someone else provide the springboard to get me started on a new project. That's what the contest meant to me, nothing more, but to others? It could be their first dip into the pool in which they wanted to swim. It could be their first big break.  It could be the one more thing to push their design popularity from ok into something big and exciting. If I was chosen as one of the twelve I might be stealing someones dreams! How could I do that?!? The guilt ran bitter and deep.

Obviously my heart and head were not in a good place to embark on such an unknown adventure, but I would go with the flow and see where it led. Gillian and Joe had made such huge efforts to get me this far, I guess I should at least respect their faith in me and see this thing through. Besides, how much of a chance did I have?  There are untold numbers of very talented designers out there I only needed twelve who had submitted applications the judges liked better than mine.  Not a problem. I figured everything I submitted in my application was good but surely there would be others which would be much better.  And then I thought about the typical reality show personnel.  OMG! I might have a chance to be one the chosen!  Boil it all down to the basics and I was screwed.  I was probably going to be considered a forerunner for the typical reality show persona of the 'crazy old lady!'

Whoa, what have I done?

Next up: Meet The Contestants!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Hey This Sounds Like Fun!

Yup. Those were the words I said that fateful day on February 6, 2013.

I had just started my evening Facebook perusal when I saw post by Franklin Habit announcing that he had secured a gig as a guest judge in an upcoming knitting contest called The Fiber Factor.  I followed the link in his post and there it was.  The thing most knitters who also happen to be Project Runway fans had been dreaming about since season one, a design competition for knitting!!!

OMGOMGOMG could this be true?!?

Further reading, a viewing of the promotional video , and a quick read through the application and official rules told me yes it was true!


I immediately told Joe about it and his only response was, "Sounds like something you'd want to do"  Joe is the king of understatement. I downloaded the forms and rules, read them again, thought about what I'd like to do and went to bed. The next morning before he left for work Joe asked two questions, what was the application deadline and if I thought I could do a video.  The first question was easy, the deadline was March 24, the second was bit tricky to answer.  Could I do a video? A question that had a two-part answer. I didn't have the skill or know-how and our laptop was in fact on its last leg but I guess I could learn and finally get that new laptop. On the other hand, could I actually DO a video. hmmmm. My home is called The Hermitage, because quite frankly, I don't get out much,  but I had done some public speaking in the past, I had been a school teacher in another life, could I do a video?




I don't know.

Such a simple question with so many answers.

I spent the day wondering if and how I could do a video as I gathered all my finished and not-so finished designs.  It was a fretful but exhilarating day. (Shhhhh don't tell anyone but, I even found a few designs I had completely forgot about, I really ought to organize my stuff!) When Joe, man of few words, returned home from work he said one thing. "Call Gillian and do this thing." Ahh Joe always my cheerleader and facilitator even if he didn't quite know exactly what it was he was agreeing to, but at that point neither did I. Did anyone?

In a phone call to Gillian, our youngest, who knows her way around computers and cameras, I said those words again, "Hey this sounds like fun!" she wholeheartedly agreed, and that was all it took to get this ball rolling. ----- Apparently we Graweys sometimes have a skewed sense of what would be fun to do, this was going to involve a whole LOT of work! ----- I would have everything ready to go for a photographic session of the designs and the shooting of the video by the first weekend in March. Gillian would fly in late on the 28th of February and back out on Sunday the 3rd. She would take the raw footage cut and splice and make her mother look....presentable?......capable?.....not crazy?  Well, two out of three ain't bad. ;)

The swiftness with which the next 3 weeks from February 7th to March 1st past was surreal.  In that time I was soaking, steaming and blocking designs, finishing designs and creating designs to submit for the application.  Yes, I said "and creating designs", two of them, dreamed up and knitted from start to finish in that same three week period. I was also writing and re-writing my responses on the application form and storyboarding my video. Doing all this cuz it's fun right?  Well, yeah, it was fun cuz I do enjoy doing that type of thing. Plus, consider the biggest ever added bonus, I was going to have a girls weekend with my daughter from LA and my niece from Chicago being silly and doing silly things!!!!

Below you'll see the three designs I submitted as a required part of my application.  The beautiful models in these garments are my daughter Gillian and my almost daughter, my niece Erin. I've also uploaded the original full length application video I sent in and some snippets from my application.  Just for giggles sake, how would YOU answer these application questions? Hey, you never know when something fun might come around and you'll be asked to answer similar questions! And keep in mind, I was/am just like many of you. I was and am someone who just plays all day.

I hope you enjoy the video in all its silliness.  From the very beginning I never even considered the possibility of actually being one of the contestants, just sending in an application sounded like something that would be fun to do so I did it.  At the time I never really thought things through and considered what could happen. I just focused on the now and how much fun it would be to have Gillian home for the weekend and how silly we could get while shooting a video together. I have to admit, I'm super glad I didn't think it all through, I'm not sure I would have done it if I had and that would have been my loss for soooooo many different reasons.

Next up: Whoa, What Have I Done?

Knitted Military Inspired Multi-direction Jacket

Knitted Military Inspired Multi-direction Jacket

Knitted Drop Stitch Dress

Knitted Drop Stitch Dress

Mandarin Inspired Knitted Jacket with Hand Sewn Welts

Mandarin Inspired Knitted Jacket with Hand Sewn Welts

Please describe your design philosophy or point of view:

I am driven by knitting not only as a thing of beauty, but as a medium which can have
structure with purpose and function. Fueled by the questions, "What if' "Why not" and
"Why"  I strive to explore the inherent pliable nature of the knitted fabric in my designs.
The fact that a knitted fabric can so easily be commanded and manipulated to bend, curve,
fold, turn, and grow from a plain smooth flat 2-dimensional surface into a deeply textured,
multi-colored 3-dimensional space feeds my soul and thrills me.

PIease describe your goals as a designer:

My goal as a designer is to make people think or, at the very least, consider the possibilities.
Knitting is a medium and a skill that can easily be exploited. Whether that exploitation
takes the form of exploding the conventional ideals of garment structure, merely finds
another way to manipulate the stitches or pushes the envelope of fashion, knitting has no

What are your strengths and your weaknesses as  a designer?

My strengths are simple; I am fearless with my needles and confident in my skills and
imagination. I also stay abreast of the current fashion trends.

One of my weaknesses as a designer could be remedied; I have very little experience with
size gradation when writing a pattern. 
My other weakness is the major force holding me back, I have never been interested in the business side of design.

What are the things you are most passionate about in life?

I would assume like many others my biggest passion is my family, my husband, children,
grandchildren and very large very close extended family.

Some of my other passions in no particular order are:

Color: around me but not necessarily ON me. Friends call my home "the Dr. Seuss House"
because of the riotous use of color throughout.

Thrifting/Repurposing/Recreating/Reusing: I get a real kick out of rejuvenating things like
clothing and furniture.

Learning: I feed my brain constantly. My day is not complete unless I've learned something

What else should we know about you?

Knitting isn't my only skill. To name just few of the other crafts/skills which occupy my
time, sewing, crochet, spinning, dyeing, needle lace, felting (wet and needle), weaving,
beading, embroidery, wirework, leather work, tambour, rug making, book binding, jewelry
making [particularly inspired by Arline Fisch Textiles in Metal] To be honest there isn't
much I haven't attempted I've been playing all my life but I promise to keep everything for
this contest knitted unless you tell me otherwise.
In a nutshell I just like to build and create with my hands. I adore functional and
purposeful work whether it's delicate piece of lace or the restoration of my house from the
bare studs up. And I equally adore fanciful perhaps not extremely functional work like
creating spinning wheels or "spinning machines" from discarded found objects like the antique brass chandelier soon to be a spinning wheel as seen in my video.

Monday, July 13, 2015

That Thing I Did That One Time

Let's begin with the premise that we as humans are the sum and total of our experiences.  Each and everyday and each and every thing, we experience molds and shapes us into the people we become. That learning, molding, and shaping, does not cease when we reach a certain age, it is a continual growth which carries on throughout our entire life with each person we meet, each book we read, and quite frankly every experience we endure.

I have done many, many things in my life, but none compare to That Thing I Did That One Time.  That Thing of which I speak was the proverbial once-in-a-lifetime-experience.  It was an experience I shared with a very limited number of people while a far greater number of people watched and judged. That Thing I Did That One Time had a name, they called it The Fiber Factor.

Many of you reading this are probably somewhat familiar with The Fiber Factor. Perhaps you were one of those faithful followers who counted the days until the next progress video was uploaded, or one of the many who would binge watch the videos over the weekend, or maybe you have never even heard of The Fiber Factor and you just stumbled across this blog because you wanted to read the post about President Obama holding my knitting or how to dye wool with jello. Regardless of why you are here I hope you will continue to stop by.  Over the course of the next several weeks I will be posting a series of blog posts which are a retrospective of my Fiber Factor experiences, an insider's view of sorts of what was, and always will be, a truly unique experience.

Yes, I can hear you asking 'But why now? Why are you now talking about a thing that was over, done, and kaput in January of 2013?'  To answer your query quite bluntly and succinctly, cuz I can, I want to, and July 18th is fast approaching!

Because I can, as in I am able to at this point. It is no longer an emotional thing for me. Throughout the contest the tsunami of emotions was exhausting, not to mention the physical exhaustion which was also ever present.  I've often characterized The Fiber Factor as the most grueling bit of fun I've ever had.  For all the bumps, and bruises sustained by participating in The Fiber Factor the over riding emotion which by far trumps all else is gratitude.  I wouldn't be who I am or where I am without having done That Thing I Did That One Time.

Because I want to, as in I find insider retrospectives quite interesting. I, as most people who work, dabble, or play in the creative realm are often asked, questions like, 'how do you come up with these designs/ideas?' or 'where do you get your inspiration?' or "how the hell does your brain work?!?' Hopefully this series of blog posts will answer some of these questions.  btw spoiler alert: Sorry, I'm not quiet sure how my brain works either.  ;)

I hope you will enjoy the posts to come about the what and whys I did what I did.

Next up: Hey This Sounds like Fun!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

We Won!

Yes, thanks to you, my fibery friends and family, I DID win the Vogue Knitting / Fiber Factor design competition.  I am honored and deeply, deeply touched by all your support and obviously all your votes.  ;)  The competition was stiff, as you all well know, having seen the other designs my fellow Fiber Factor Finalists submitted. I am forever grateful to Vogue Knitting and The Fiber Factor for this never once dreamed of, nor even considered, opportunity of having a design of mine published in Vogue Knitting.  I'm still rather gobsmacked, and overwhelmed, and tongue-tied as my feeble fumbling around here blantantly depicts. ;)

And I am exhausted.  It's been a VERY hectic weekend.  I was not able to be in NYC this weekend there were even bigger things happening here at home.  What on Earth could be bigger than competing in a Vogue Knitting contest and having your garment walk the runway at VKLive NYC you might ask?  It all boils down to priorities, and regardless of what is going on in the outside world, family will always come first.  This weekend Gillian flew in for her Midwest bridal shower. It'd be a just a tad bit weird, awkward, and absolutely wrong, if the mother of the bride left for NYC the same day the bride to be arrived from LA.  Don't you agree?  Having Gillian home for a few days was heaven, and the shower was FUN FUN FUN in a most (in)appropriate and fitting Grawey Family irreverent way.  I'll go into detail with some pictures in a day or two (or three) suffice to say we had our own runway and the Grawey family knows how to strut their stuff.

I'm looking at my desk calendar, and I just can't wrap my head around all the things which need to be done, all the looming deadlines, and all the STUFF I've got going on. And to think only two years ago on February 6th I thought it would be fun to send in an application for a brand new thing called The Fiber Factor.  I still can't believe little old me from my hermitage in the middle no where has been so fortunate, having so many opportunities and doors flung widely open. WOW

The Official Rules and Application for Season 2 of The Fiber Factor are now available.  I haven't read them myself yet, but I'm looking forward to it.  Maaaaaayyyybbbeeee there might be some critiquing of my own going on when the new season gets up and running. ;)

Talk to you soon my wonderful fibery people!!!!