Stephanie Mason Design

Posts

Starting Fresh

Mar 18, 2015

Oh, la, what to say. Here’s where I am now.

I somewhat recently had some malware infect all the wordpress sites I had going. Which were my own site, my mom’s site, my step mom’s site, and my partner’s site. This happened shortly after my computer had some funky shit going on with it and my having dealt with that whole mess (Coincidence? Well yeah, probably just a coincidence. But no doubt spurred by my lack of taking serious measures to protect these kinds of things.) When I reset my computer I backed up almost all my files, but I did not backup my Xampp directory. I originally intended to back it up, but my external hard drive was full and I figured, “Well, those files are all online so I’ll just back them up from there once my computer is reset.” I did not get around to this before the malware nonsense happened. I was able to salvage the databases, and I have all of the images/content from all the sites in my other files. It’s just the whole wordpress file structure was wiped out to the point that it would have taken forever to get it back in order.

Before any of that even happened, I was already pretty bored/fed up with using wordpress because it was such a pain to keep updated when I wasn’t using it all the time. I took this all as a sign and an opportunity to start fresh and simplify a lot of things. I wasn’t even all that stressed out about it. It was just like, “Ah. Okay, so that just happened. Time to move on I guess.”

I decided that most of those websites didn’t really need to be on wordpress anwyay, or any kind of content management system at all. I think when I set them all up originally, I had this romantic notion that by putting them on wordpress I would enable the people who I was making them for to make some simple updates down the road. But my step mom and partner are both Ludites when it comes to computers, and of course they’re not going to learn any kinds of anything to do with wordpress. Then I thought, since I’m going to be the one forever updating their sites for them, why not make them super simple one page websites. I know HTML and CSS and all that crap, so why am I adding all this complicated database stuff to websites that are 1)rarely going to be updated and 2) when they are updated, the update consists of adding maybe a few portfolio images? No reason to deal with all that mess, so bam, simplified. Small. Fast. Easy. Yessss.

My mom is way more with it, and she was working out the wordpress thing just fine. But after getting her website totally up and running and ready to go, something got fucked up and wordpress stopped finding the database and I was just ooooveeerrr iiiiitttt. I had such wonderful experiences with the other websites that I decided to go ahead and do the same thing for her. I’m not sure if she’s really all that into it yet, because I think she was probably getting into the swing of things with wordpress (after I had talked her out of using Wix or Weebly or whatever she had originally wanted to use) and here I am emailing her html files. But I figure it’s a good trade off, because it will be so quick and easy for me to help her get it fixed up if she tells me what she wants.

Now for my own site, I had at least had something to put up while deciding what direction I wanted to go in because I had made a very simple portfolio site about a year ago, which was the original site for this domain. It was an alternative to my blog website, Un Petit Squab, and my then project website, 100 Baby Sweater Patterns, that I could point people to to get an idea of what I was all about. Eventually I had replaced this website with a wordpress site that was pretty much a combination of all three of those things, and that was just fine and dandy for a good while. I had all those files still on my computer from this simple portfolio website, so I just uploaded that as a place holder while I decided what to do about my crashed wordpress enterprise.

Sometime either before the malware deal or shortly after I found out about Jekyll. When I started reading the page it was like it was written in an alien language. I barely knew what github was (confession: still barely understand it, but I’m sure that in about six months from now I’m going to look back at myself and laugh at my pitiful ignorance) and while I feel like I’m pretty savvy about a lot of web development stuff, it just wasn’t making sense to me. What I did understand, though, was that this was some kind of bare bones content management system, and it was very intriguing. I couldn’t stop thinking about it and going back to see if I could figure out what was going on.

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to even deal with having a blog anymore, because I hadn’t blogged in over a year when my site crashed. I thought maybe I should just make a better portfolio type website, and I was thinking about a lot of different ways to do that. I kept going back to jekyll, reading a little here and there before thinking, “nope, still have no idea what this is”. Then about a week ago I decided to settle in and figure that shit out, and to design my damn website already.

Jekyll is definitely one of those things that’s way easier to understand if you just dive in and start doing it. (As, I imagine, github will be.) All of the sudden it just clicked, and oh my god I freaking love it. It’s totally up my ally. Such a stripped down way to do things! Everything just text files, everything so organized. I suddenly became inspired to revive my blog. I can write blog posts without having to deal with crappy TinyMCE, don’t have to sign into some slow loading wordpress site to do it, don’t have to sign into ANY slow loading website to do it… this is just like, writing in a text editor diary! SO SIMPLE.

But of course, now that I’d decided I want to give blogging another shot, I didn’t want to just abandon all my old blog posts. Unfortunately, since none of my shit besides the database was backed up, the only way I had access to most of those old blog posts was in one giant XML file.

So that was fun.

I pretty much went through each blog post by hand, put it in a very handy HTML to Markdown converter, (I really like the markdown format for blog posts–it makes so much sense!), saved it with the properly formatted filename, and after three days, voila! Lovely blog posts, easy to back up, all in simple markdown text files. SO BEAUTIFUL. With a few typos fixed here and there and a few embarrassing moments edited out to boot. (But only a very few, there is still plenty of embarrassment to be had reading over some old posts.)

Albeit a slow process, it was a really good experience. It forced me to actually read over my whole blogging past. It made me realize a lot of things about myself, and recognize a lot of patterns. Like–I am really, really good at trying out new things and getting really excited about new ideas, only to do them maybe once or twice, and then abandon them forever. I also used to be really good at writing a lot of posts talking about how “it’s been so long since I last blogged! I swear I’m going to do it more!” Only to not blog for another month and do the same thing. Like anyone fucking cares! Thankfully I eventually realized that it was stupid to do that kind of thing and stopped, but man, in the early days.

I didn’t import most of my posts from 100 Baby Sweater Patterns, because most of those posts were posts about the individual patterns, which is all info that can be found on ravelry, serves a purpose there, and has no real need to be repeated here. Or generic ass “five faves!” or “resource roundup!” nonsense posts. I mean, whatever, they made sense at the time, and they make sense for a lot of blogs, but it makes no sense to import that kind of thing to a website where it has no context that is now a lot more personal. It would just be a total waste of time importing all that crap. The only thing I brought over from that website were the tutorials, because I still think they’re probably useful to anyone who might stumble upon them.

Another thing I realized in reading over all my own posts was how, pretty much over the course of my entire blog spanning all the way back to 2008, the tone on my blog is sooooo bad. And by bad I mean just phony as hell. It’s kind of hard to read. I get why I always wrote that way, it’s because I have a lot of fairly conservative and older family members, and I did a lot of blogging with the idea that it would be a way to share what I was doing with my family. I did a lot of cross posting on facebook, and I did a lot of self-tone-policing based on the assumption that most of my readers were going to be my grandmas.

Now that I’m blogging again, I kind of have it in my mind that I’m going to be a bit more casual about it (like in the early days) and I’m not going to be throwing any more “oh my goodness!”es into my posts ever again. (I mean what the hell is that. What is that.) I don’t really have an idea of what direction I’d like the blog to go in at this point. I’m not trying to do it in any kind of professional or entrepreneurial manner. I kind of like the idea of continuing to post crafty things. I’m getting into computer programming more and more now, so I’d like to start writing about that, too. I also really like being able to photo dump on my blog whenever I’m feeling more photographer-y. I kind of just like the idea of journaling and writing about the things I’m doing as I’m doing them, posting projects that I’m excited about, and not feeling very pressured about anything in particular or feel like I have to be particularly organized about the whole thing. I like the idea of having it as a form of self expression again. (Maybe I should archive all of my old livejournal posts on here, guys! Then you can really see me embarass myself. Like, reeeeally. I started that shit in middle school and I didn’t stop until about 3 years ago.)

I mean, realistically, the most likely scenario is that this will be the last blog post I’ll get out of me until 2016, given my track record, so all of this is kind of a moot point.

So here’s to new horizons. I’m starting school again in 2 weeks. I just ordered some yarn for my next sweater pattern. I have a lot of vague ideas of projects I’d like to start in the next year or two related to both knitting and programming. Here goes nothing.


How to do the Tunisian Knit Stitch

May 16, 2014

tunisian knit stitch

I have published three Tunisian crochet patterns. Two of these feature the Tunisian Knit Stitch as opposed to Tunisian Simple Stitch. There are several wonderful tutorials already in existence for Tunisian simple stitch, but I thought I’d go ahead and make this quickie for the knit stitch (which is very similar, but still just a little special.) In addition to Tunisian Knit Stitch, I’m gonna show you how to do what I like to call “TKS2Tog,” which is a very simple decrease you can do on the forward pass. It’s pretty intuitive, but because I don’t think the abbreviation exists outside of my patterns, I thought I’d go ahead and cover the technique here.

How to do the Tunisian Knit Stitch

Tunisian Knit Stitch Tutorial

It’s really easy. All you need to do is take your hook (by the way, you should be using a long, Tunisian hook… you can sometimes get away with using a regular hook, as long as it doesn’t get too wide at the thumb grasp to move your stitches over, but a longer hook makes it easier to make bigger pieces) and insert it in through the middle of the stitches towards the back of the work on your forward pass.

Tunisian Knit Stitch Tutorial

Then pull up a loop.

Tunisian Knit Stitch Tutorial

You do this into every stitch across to the end. On the very last stitch, you pretty much just do a Tunisian simple stitch because going “through” the stitch ends up being going under the bar anyway.

TKS2Tog (How to Decrease in Tunisian Knit Stitch)

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The only thing you have to do to decrease is to go into two stitches before drawing up a loop. However, it’s impossible to go through the first stitch to the back and then go through the second. So on the first stitch, you just go under the bar (as with Tss) and then you go through the next stitch to the back.

How to tunisian crochet

Then you draw your loop up through both of those stitches, creating a single loop out of two. Tada!

The Return Pass

tunisian knit tutorial

This is just to remind you that on the return pass, you draw your first loop up through only one stitch…

how to tunisian knit stitch

And then you draw loops up two stitches at a time until you get to the end.

how to tunisian crochet

It’s also important to remember (for stitch counts and such) that the last loop on your hook after the return pass always counts as your first stitch for the next row.

A few more helpful hints (especially if you’re using my patterns.)

On Chaining at the Beginning

I’ve seen some websites say that you should chain 1 at the beginning of each row. This is lies. If you chain one at the beginning, you will have a really wonky right edge to your work. The edges in in Tunisian knit stitch tend to be wonky anyway, but they’ll be a total mess if you add all that extra chaining.

Other ways to Decrease (specifically at the beginning & end of rows)

In my patterns I also have you decrease at the beginning of rows by working slip stitches–you just insert your hook the same way as you would to create a TKS stitch, but you pull the loop all the way through to slip it.

You can also decrease multiple stitches at the end of a row by simply not completing your forward pass–just leave however many stitches you want left at the end, then work your return pass.

Working decreases like this at the beginning & end is similar to binding off stitches in knitting, or just slip/not working stitches in crochet. It’s really handy for underarm shaping, or for any time you need to abruptly lose a bunch of stitches.

And that’s it, a fairly straightforward technique that creates a very sturdy, knit-like fabric using a crochet hook. Huzzah!

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Guest post on How To Hair Girl

Feb 17, 2014

I wrote a guest post over on one of my favorite blogs, How to Hair Girl. Go check it out for some sweet hair tutorial action.

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More hair news coming soon.


Tutorial: How to do the Sewn Bind Off

Feb 12, 2014

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I have published several patterns that utilize sewn bind off around the neckline. While probably best known for it’s use in binding off sock cuffs, this bind off method is also a very handy one to know for baby sweaters. Babies, of course, have gigantic heads in comparison to the size of their necks, which presents some unique design challenges. While most baby sweater designs (both in the hand knitting world as well as in manufactured baby clothes) handle this fact by way of simply being cardigans or utilizing buttons or other fasteners on the shoulder, raglan edge, or back. Another way to handle it is to simply have a slightly wider neckline that is also nice and stretchy.

This is a nice way to work around the big head situation because in the long run it makes baby easier to dress (no buttons to fuss with), cuts down on any worry one might have of choking hazards, and makes for sweaters that don’t fall back on the traditional “button on the shoulder” design. Not to mention it means you don’t have to fuss with knitting button holes. All in all, a pretty good way to go.

It’s a really easy technique to learn and memorize, so if you haven’t tried it out before here are the simple step by step instructions.

Sewn Bind Off Tutorial

Step One:

Cut your yarn tail 3x longer than the knitting to be bound off, + a little extra

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Step Two:

Insert your yarn needle into the next two stitches purlwise

step_02

And pull the yarn tail through until it is snug, but not too tight.

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Step Three:

Insert your yarn needle into the next stitch knitwise…

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And pop it off the knitting needle.

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Repeat from Step Two

until all but the last stitch have been bound off. Then simply pop this last stitch off knitwise.

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You’ll have a nice, stretchy bound off edge. PS: You don’t have to work this on a ribbed edge. It works great on stockinette, garter, whatever. It’s important to tug your yarn snug on each “purl through” for a consistent, non lumpy edge.

Sewn bind off tutorial.

And that’s it! A mantra to remember the steps is, “Purl through two, knit off one.” If you can remember that, you can remember this bind off.

I probably won’t totally be turning my back on button closures because, lets face it: they’re super cute. But using sewn bind off to create nice stretchy necks does open up a lot of great baby design possibilities. (Not to mention it’s a super useful technique to have in your pocket.)


Happy Frankiversary, love

Feb 3, 2014

stef-loves-franki

Today my pooch, Franki, and I celebrate our 11th anniversary. (Or at least, I celebrate it, and Franki feels like something is special happening cause she’s getting a lot of extra treats today.)

I haven’t been able to remember the exact date that I adopted her for a number of years now, but I knew it was sometime around January or February, so a few weeks ago I went back into my old livejournal archives and found the post about the day we went and adopted her. Today, it turns out, is that day!

franki-says-wut

I was 14, in 9th grade, and I had been wanting a dog for awhile. I was always a huge animal lover as a child and had quite a lot of pets through the years, but my mom had always held of on having a dog because we had moved around a lot and lived in apartments and it just didn’t seem like a good idea–not to mention while I was a fairly responsible child I hadn’t necessarily proven that I was responsible enough to care for something so dependent on it’s owner. I can’t blame her for holding out at all. But, finally the time had come when I had begged enough, cleaned my room enough, and showed my mom enough cute pictures of dogs that she caved.

It had never been a question in my mind that I was going to adopt a dog and not get a puppy. After having an incredibly disappointing experience with a rescue group I turned to the LASPCA website for other adoptable dogs. We did, in fact, live in a condo, so my mom and I agreed it would have to be a small dog and that was what I was on the lookout for. There was one small pooch that looked like he’d be a good fit, and better yet he was a Pomeranian mix (my mom’s favorite dog). So we drove out to East LA to meet him and hopefully take him home.

franki-stef

Alas, he had already been adopted. But the shelter had another dog on the way back from an adoption even that the shelter later assured us was a medium small ish dog. Truth be told, I already knew exactly what dog she was talking about, because I had basically memorized all the faces of all the dogs they had listed on their website. It was this black and tan dog named “Serenity” that I had looked back at many times and was super intrigued by, but had dismissed due to the fact that she was labelled “Medium” and my mom and I had specifically agreed to a small dog.

But… my mom had already driven over 40 minutes with me to this shelter just to be told the other dog wasn’t there, so she said we should wait and check out this medium sized dog.

It was, of course, love at first site as this bumbly 9 month old puppy (in other words, fully grown but as fully amped as only a puppy could be) ran out and started chasing a ball. She pooped immediately, which my mom actually took as a good sign, “Well, at least you know what you’re in for.” I couldn’t believe that my mom was down with me taking home this 30 pound medium-sized dog, I was ecstatic.

franki-as-a-pup

frank-ball

We signed the adoption papers, waited for her to be spayed, and a few days later my mom picked her up after work and brought her home. My mom is actually the one who came up with the name Franki, too. Serenity was pretty much the least suited name ever, considering Franki was anything but serene when she was a pup. I remember taking her to the fenced in park across the street to let her off the leash and immediately panicked as she ran… nay, flew around in circles going about 50mph. I was panicked because she had just gotten out of her spay surgery, still had sutures, and was under strict orders not to do any physical exertion.

franki-benni

Franki has been my constant companion since then, and has zoomed after countless numbers of balls, dissected countless stuffed animals, devoured countless bones. We had a rough first year as I learned what it meant to be a dog owner and she learned what was and wasn’t okay to do, but over the ten years following that she has grown to be the best dog a girl could ask for. She has always been super smart and highly trainable. Even now she picks up new tricks like it’s nothing (that is–when I’m not too lazy to actually do some training with her.) It’s really quite amazing how the bond you have with your dog grows over the years, and how much more you understand each other. Franki and I know each others routines, and we know how to read each other.

While she’s starting to show her age more and more, she’s pretty spry and people are usually surprised to learn that she’s 12 years old. She still loves to chase balls, though we try to limit how much we let her go at it. Her all time favorite activity is eating, followed closely by rolling around on her back in the grass.

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franki-at-the-quarry

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franki-love

I love her so much, and it’s very bittersweet as the years pass. Every year I get to spend more time with her, and she just grows more gentle and I feel more connected with her. Yet every year she grows older and more fragile, and my heart breaks a little every time I see her struggling just a little more to get up, getting tired just a little more quickly after chasing the ball, sleeping just a little bit more throughout the day. We make her life as comfortable as possible, and the good news about living in a tiny house is that she has very little distance to go before she gets to be outside and she’s always nice and warm next to the heater. She gets lots of fresh air, has lots of space to explore when we go outside, and has probably about the best life a dog could ask for at this point.

I just love her so much, and I love how we have been able to grow together over the years.

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