For the most part, I as a creator and designer have remained quiet about issues within my personal life. Yes, I am keen to carefully curate and share my optimistic personality with what I hope is quick wit and finely tailored crafts in a 1 by 1 square on Instagram, but my followers rarely see my reality after I set down my hook or needles. Ever the designer, this too is purposeful. I have historically been one to shy away from probing questions or innocent remarks. I like everything in my life to fit into its designated space. Bleed-through from one to the next makes me anxious. At this point in time, however, I feel it is more beneficial to shed light and insight into my new normal.
My life up to this point has thankfully not been touched by much illness or death within my family or friend group. Within the last six months, however, three people that I hold near to me have been diagnosed with separate forms of stage four cancer, and we experienced an unexpected death in the family. Those are not my stories to tell, and I won’t get into the minutia of their prognoses or circumstances, but what I will speak on is how I am navigating it.
I won’t easily forget the day that my friend Michael shared his concerns with me over an unusual spot on his leg. My father had finished treatments for Melanoma only weeks earlier, and the signs were not lost on me. I, along with others, urged him to see a specialist. By the end of the month, his life had forever changed, and my perspective shifted.
I’ve talked about my grandmother (Abuela) many times over all my platforms, and will indeed talk about her for the rest of my days. It’s hard to describe the impact she has had on me. I’m the Mijo she’s always going on about. And just between us, when no one else is listening she lets me know I’m her favorite, too. Hearing of her illness has been one of the most painful experiences of my life. After the news, I packed a suitcase and headed eight hours west to my hometown of Odessa to spend some much needed time with her. I was fortunate enough to spend a little over a month with her through June and July, and for that, I will be ever thankful to the universe.
While in Odessa, towards the middle of my stay, I got a call from my mother (my Abuela’s daughter) that my father had a bump on his head he was having tested. My stomach dropped and the hard time I was having navigating Odessa was compounded by yet another stormcloud. Not much later his test came back and the spread of his cancer was confirmed.
Torn is the only word that can completely encompass my feelings at the time. I now was balanced between three delicate and threatening situations, and unable to help all at once. I am by nature an extremely empathic person, and the toll taken on me was monumental. I had to push through, however, because I am and have always been the healer of my family and friends. I needed to keep that up at all costs.
When I arrived back home, I was soon off to STITCHES Midwest in Chicago while my father had surgery to remove the tumor on his head. Overnight trips to M D Anderson in Houston with my father started immediately upon my return that Monday. And I say that with no exaggeration. I woke up in the early hours of the morning in Chicago, flew to a layover in New Orleans, flew back to Dallas, drove two and a half hours home to pick up my father, then three hours to Houston. I was quite literally all over the map that day.
When we arrived to the hospital, I had left my fibercrafts in my overnight bag and was stuck with only my phone. We sat in anticipation for his first appointment, and I got a twinkle in my eye when I spotted a woman crocheting small hexagonal flower motifs for a growing afghan in her lap. In a time of such discomfort, watching her working away gave me a much-needed sense of ease.
My father’s father and brother also live near Houston. After returning from another M D Anderson trip a few weeks ago we received the heartbreaking news that my uncle’s fiancée Michelle passed away unexpectedly during the night. The news was another spike to the heart, as she was so incredibly sweet and far too young. I will forever cherish my favorite memory with her; us crocheting together. Michelle decided to learn, and I was so excited to teach her. I drove four hours to their house for a weekend getaway with a huge box full of yarn. I spent hours showing her how to chain, then single crochet, and help her work up her very first granny square. I doubt if she ever picked up a crochet hook again, as my uncle told me as much, which makes me crack a grin.
After hearing the news of her passing, my family and I traveled back to Houston and I was able to give my Uncle some much-needed solace. In the moments where he was talking to others or taking calls, I knit in the same spot Michelle and I had worked on our projects almost a year ago now. The act of making soothed the hurt I felt as well.
Now I make a habit of bringing whatever project I am working on to whoever’s care I'm in attendance for. In fact, I’m Sitting at M D Anderson Cancer Center with a beanie on my needles as I write. It has made a world of difference to my attitude and demeanor. I usually see at least one other person crocheting on each trip. There has only been one knitter, but I’m always on the lookout. Creating, whether sewing, knitting, or crocheting, has always been meditative, if not spiritual for me. It is for that reason that when the stress seems too much, or I feel the need to sink further into my situational depression, fiber arts helps to pull me out and center me. It has truly become a guiding factor in my life.
The only way out is through. One of my favorite songs, which coincidentally is about the effects of cancer, put it the best. “Things change fast, and this too shall pass.” At this moment in time, along the bright red string of my life, it indeed feels frayed. It feels as though at any moment the tightrope I'm walking across may snap, that the yarn will unravel and fall to a tangled pile on the floor. But it is temporary, I know that one day these problems will be gone and that there is so much light and love in store. Time and again the one thing to call that to mind for me is fiber arts. And if you find yourself in a situation like mine, I hope above all hopes that you find that one thing to make you feel the bright light of the future as well.
One of my earliest memories as a child would be sitting in front of my TV and putting in an old, beat up VHS that had the original Alvin and the Chipmunks music video for Witch Doctor. I was entranced. I learned every word by heart. Well, almost. Apparently "Chingar" is not a nice substitute for Ting-Tang. Sorry Abuela. To be fair, I had to learn the word from somewhere.
As October has just reached it's halfway point, it is SERIOUSLY time to consider your costume options. If you're anything like me, then you just have to make yours by hand but time is running out! That's why I needed something quick, relatively inexpensive, and cute. Enter the *cough cough* "Generic Talking Personified Woodland Creature Who's First Initial Is Monogrammed On His Sweater, Sweater"! Generic Talking Woodland Creature Sweater for short. As this is my personal pattern (i.e. tailored to me specifically) I'll be giving you instructions for my sizing, but if you choose to adapt the pattern to fit you better, the yarn is so chunky that the math is a breeze! The pattern, like its inspiration is meant to be oversized and longer than usual, so you may find that this size will work on you as well!
Generic Talking Woodland Creature Sweater
Size 15 Circular Knitting needles (40'') and (16'')
3 Skeins Red Heart Super Saver Jumbo in Cherry Red
1 Skein Red Heart Super Saver in Cherry Red
1 Skein Red Heart Super Saver in Bright Yellow
Large Yarn Needle
8 Stitches by 12 Rows in Stockinette = 4'' Square
BO- Bind off
P2tog- Purl 2 together
P2togtbl- Purl 2 together through back loop
Super Saver yarn is chain plied before use, meaning it will become a three plied bulky weight yarn. Alternatively, hold three strands together while working.
Cast on 56 sts
Row 1: (K2, p2) thirteen times, k2.
Row 2: (P2, k2) thirteen times, p2.
Rows 3-6: Repeat rows 1, 2.
Row 7: K all sts.
Row 8: P all sts.
Rows 9-100: Repeat rows 7, 8. For front panel, begin Intarsia chart on Row 25, end on row 90.
Row 101: K23, bind off 10, k23.
Row 102: P all sts until two remain, p2tog. - 22 sts
Row 103: K all sts.
Rows 104-113: Repeat rows 102, 103. End with 17 sts.
Row 114: P all sts.
Row 102: p2togtbl, p all sts. - 22 sts
Row 103: K all sts.
Rows 104-113: Repeat rows 102, 103. End with 17 sts.
Row 114: P all sts.
Sleeves (make 2)
Cast on 20 sts.
Row 1: K1, (p2, k2) four times, p2, k1.
Row 2: P1, (k2, p2) four times, k2, p1.
Rows 3-6: Repeat rows 1, 2.
Row 7: K all sts.
Row 8: P all sts.
Rows 9-12: Repeat rows 7, 8.
Row 13: K1, m1r, k until 1 st remains, m1l, k1. - 22 sts
Rows 14-91: Repeat rows 8-13. End with 48 sts.
Rows 92-95: Repeat rows 8, 9.
Row 96: P all sts.
Seam Sweater using favorite seaming technique, Locking matress stitch or whipstitch is preferred.
Along neckhole, pick up 52 sts in the round.
Rows 1-10: (K2, p2) twelve times, k2.
Weave in all ends.
Hey all my status breakers! I have an exciting contest to announce! Those of you who follow me on my Instagram (my most active form of communication) will know that I've been hard at work writing guest blogs for my good friends at Clover Needlecraft! Yes, THAT Clover Needlecraft (I know, pinch me because it feels like I'm dreaming). The four most recent blogs have gone over four special knitting techniques; Mosaic Knitting, Mosaic Intarsia, Picking up Stitches, and Adding Fringe. The culmination of all those tutorial blogs and videos is my FREE pattern, The Dragonfruit Coaster.
The party doesn't stop there though! I am releasing my favorite pattern ever on this Saturday, August 31st. The best part? It uses all these newfound techniques! And because you all are so amazing, I'm giving you a sneak peak, coupon codes, and a chance to win the pattern for free!
The Azulejo de Talavera Bandanna is my most comprehensive pattern to date. It goes into detail on EVERYTHING, with step-out video tutorials to make sure you are able to work up your own and stay the envy of your knitting group. It's inspired by the beautiful ceramic tiles of Mexico, and my memories of tracing out the intricate patterning on the tabletops of every restaurant in my hometown of Odessa Texas. Over the last month I've been back there with my Abuela, and all those memories flooded back. So where are the coupons. what's the contest, and most importantly, HOW CAN YOU WIN!
The first coupon, for 20% off the pattern, is available in my latest blogpost with Clover. That's for everyone! If you would like a 50% off coupon, though, there's just one thing you gotta do first... Color! Download my free coloring page of the Azulejo de Talavera Bandanna Pattern below and plan out what colors you would like to use on your own project. Below are also some examples of what I ended up doing, and what Talavera patterns are all about. Once you color your page in any way you choose (MS Paint, Adobe, Printed with crayons, colored pencils, earwax, ANYTHING) post the photo to Instagram and tag me @portquoelio in it and use #adtKAL so I see! I'll send you the code after! The contest ends Friday at 11:59 PM, so get in an entry soon. I will announce my favorite coloring page on instagram, and send a free copy of the pattern to the winner. If I can't choose my favorite, who knows, there may be two or three!
There are a lot of new yarns that Red Heart has been rolling out lately. I've been excited for all of these super fun stash enhancements, and have had the treat of designing for a few that will be released later on (FYI- they are STUNNING!). One of their new yarns that I knew I wanted to design for was Loop-It, a chunky boucle yarn. The best thing about Loop-It is that there are no tools required! all you need is a skein of yarn and your fingers to create fun and cozy projects. Once I learned about this fun and innovative yarn, my mind began to dream up ways to work with it that would be interesting and complex enough that even seasoned crafters would like to have a go at this super easy to use yarn. If you have followed me for any amount of time I'm sure you can guess what technique I was drawn to... cables!
That is where the Cassicaly Cabled Throw was born. Click through the photo of the throw to grab the pattern for free on Red Heart and shop the yarn. After I finished the throw, I had a few skeins left and I couldn't have them go to waste! What's better than a blanket? A matching set! Look below to find the Classically Cabled Pillow pattern!
Classically Cabled Throw Pillow
Count out 26 loops to use as cast on.
Row 1: Working from right to left, pull loops from working yarn through loops of cast on, [k2, p3, k6, p3] twice, k2. Do not turn work.
Row 2: Working from left to right, [k2, p3, k6, p3] twice, k2. Do not turn work.
Row 3: Repeat Row 1.
Row 4: Repeat Row 2.
Row 5: Working from right to left, [k2, p3, C6F, p3] twice, k2. Do not turn work.
Row 6: Repeat Row 2.
Rows 7-36: Repeat rows 1-6 five times.
Rows 37-40: Repeat rows 1-4.
Bind off and weave in ends. For Bind off tutorial, click here.
Take remaining yarn and cut loops to create a single smooth strand of yarn around 4 feet long. Fold fabric in half to form square pillowcase. With wrong sides together, whipstitch along two open edges of the pillow using smooth yarn and a yarn needle. Insert pillow, finish seaming along remaining edge and weave in end.
How do you measure a year? I remember the first time that question was posed to me. It was in the form of a song, Seasons of Love from RENT. The light above my middle school head flicked to life. How do I measure a year? At the time, I would have answered in grades or successes. My formative years were spent competing in academia. The competitive nature in me had served me well thus far. Once I became involved in the fiber world, however, I grew to realize that mindset wasn't what I should be basing my yearly trip around the sun on.
Two years ago I had just barely found my way to the crochet and knit community through Instagram. Up to that point, I had been sat in my room for years, crocheting granny squares and single crochet beanies just for the love of crafting. I had never even interacted with another person online who crafted, let alone in person. Finding this community was a serendipitous moment that I will never forget. I tend to have little moments that are gifts from the universe to let me know my current path is true. This was one of those and I am ever thankful. It seems that my craft grew overnight. Gone were the days of only granny stitch and single crochet rectangles. I began reading patterns, working on increasingly complex projects, and designing as well. The only real explanation I have for this is that I was so eager to share what I was working on with the community who had opened up their arms to me.
I recently looked back at my "goals" post for 2018 on Instagram. In reading my post, I had to laugh. At the time, my goals were intentionally vague. My biggest goal was to collaborate more, and even that seemed like a grandiose vision to me. I believe wholeheartedly in one thing. Some call it the universe, some call it positive thinking or the Law of Attraction, but the principle remains the same; your thoughts become your reality. I thought of a year full of new beginnings and friendships and was given them back tenfold. I would be remiss if I didn't take the time now to reflect on these mile markers of my time in 2018. For all intents, this is a love letter. To myself, to my friends, to the universe, and to my latest year on this earth.
There is so much of the year to unpack, and I know I will not have the time to go over it all in detail. If I fail to mention something or someone (which I am sure will happen), know that my heart is still full of love and gratitude for the positive impact they have had in my life.
The beginning of the year saw two big things happen simultaneously. Firstly, my good friend Ali decided to run a feature article on me and my craft in our school paper. It was a beautifully written piece that I will fondly look back on for years as the first publication that fully tied me to the fiber arts. Funnily enough, the day I was interviewed and photographed for the story, I received an email from Red Heart. Sometime before that, I had submitted a crochet pattern to see if they would be interested in having me freelance for them. Truth be told, I didn't expect to hear back. I had two patterns to my name and was green as the day is long. They saw potential, however, and that email was an acceptance. With that, I began designing alongside America's Favorite Yarn. I’ve since worked on quite a few projects with them, and can honestly say that they live up to their namesake.
I found time between my hired design work and school to begin my La Vie Boheme Shawl. What started as a small kerchief grew to an oversized wrap shawl who’s conception in and of itself could be an entirely separate blog post. In summation, the design to me was more than an accessory pattern. It was a symbol of my flourishing friendships within this community, particularly with three dear crafters; Anna of Moontower Dyeworks, Alex of Alexcreates, and Claudia of Crochetluna. All had sent separate skeins of yarn that I had incorporated into the first shawl. This is not the time or place to get into my background, but it was certainly rocky at times. I will one day talk about those times, and how crochet helped me find my way out of them. The throughline that can be drawn, however, is that I have always been looking for my tribe. The ambiverts, the polymaths, the bohemians who march to the beat of their own drum. Through the shawl, I understood that I had found some of those people, and I felt my light get brighter.
My newfound freelancing, feature article, and friendships gave me the confidence that I needed to take the next leap in my career. I knew that the next logical step for me was publication, whether in craft magazines or my own book. I also knew that in order to reach that goal, I would need insight into the designer world. I spent the time to find people within the fiber community who’s path I could look to as a blueprint, and titans of the field to model myself after. I quickly realized that the perfect representation of that to me was Shannon and Jason Mullett-Bowlsby of The Shibaguyz. I sent an email in March to their contact page asking for any pertinent advice. Like Red Heart, I wasn’t holding my breath for an answer. Within the week, though, I was on the phone talking with them. Any of my most fanciful ideas of their response to my email was blown out of the water. Through our first phone call, they mentioned the idea of mentorship and I was shocked, to say the least. I was unsure if I was ready, or even talented enough for something of that caliber. That is when the universe gave me another nudge to help me along my path. It was a few words from Shannon that sealed it for me, “We think you could be a part of our tribe.”
For the summer months, I stayed hard at work fine-tuning my craft, working through quite a few freelance commisions and personal patterns. One day I got a message from The Guys that an opportunity to go to Stitches Midwest had presented itself. Needlepoints West, a yarn shop out of LA was interested in having me work in their booth and showing my La Vie Boheme Shawl on the Stitches runway. I was a healthy mix of honored and nervous. The entire experience was truly amazing and went by in a blur of yarn and kombucha. That isn’t an exaggeration either, I always had my hand on a skein of yarn, and drank my weight in kombucha. Make of that what you will. The highlight of my trip was not only meeting Shannon and Jason in person but also meeting Joanne, the owner of Needlepoints West, who had opened her arms to me and given me an amazing opportunity. It was at this Stitches convention that I also discovered my love of instructing by means of demonstrations on the Playground floor.
I began fall classes at college shortly thereafter and again was called into the Needlepoints West family for Stitches SoCal. SoCal brought along many other amazing experiences. It was there that I met another person from the Shibatribe, Arica of Skeinsnsticks Designs. I was fortunate enough to room with her and to say that we hit it off would be an understatement. By the end of our time at that convention, I felt that I had gained a sister.
The final segment of 2018 that needs mention happened the weekend after I arrived home from LA. The East Texas Fiber Festival was nothing short of magic. I spent the weekend at the Moontower Dyeworks booth and had an absolutely amazing time with Anna and her niece Whitney. I also got to spend time with a handful of familiar faces from Instagram like Anna of Pasely Ducky, Logan, and Jose of Leon Alexander Yarns, and Joanna of Potion Yarns. I also had the pleasure of meeting new people like my new friends at Savvy Skeins or Shipwrecked Sheep. The weekend was topped off by my first ever class where I helped Debra of Diary of a Physicist Farmgirl navigate crochet cables as a leftie. The festival was much smaller than either Stitches Convention but had the same amount of heart. I left with my suitcase full of fiber, and a bright, fresh outlook on what I and others were building.
There is so much that this year has given me in way of food for thought, and amazing experiences. This long post honestly only scratches the surface. So where does that leave me? The biggest lesson that the universe has brought me this year is being open to the unconditional love of others, and giving my love freely in return. To not be so guarded, and embrace the fact that people still give out of the kindness of their hearts. It’s something that has been made abundantly clear over the course of this insane year, and something I know I will still be working through in the future. 2018 marks the first year I measured in love, and it feels so damn great.