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knitting

Maker Stories

A Perfect Design for Your Knitting Nest

September 15, 2014

Aaron A. Harrison | UncommonGoods

The son of an architect father and artist mother, Aaron A. Harrison quickly gravitated towards all things creative. LEGO towers gave way to kindergarten art contest wins, which eventually gave way to an MFA in ceramics and sculpture. Knowing he wanted to play with clay forever, Aaron decided to turn his passion into a career once he started raising a family.

While working in production at a ceramic slip casting company that specializes in bird feeders, birdhouses, and nightlights, Aaron began to shift his focus from artist to designer. “It was here that I learned how to run a production studio,” says Aaron, “making products from clay was preeminent to making clay art.” Working with all the bird-friendly pieces at the studio also fostered an appreciation for the bird form, inspiring Aaron to incorporate the winged creatures into his own designs once he started his own studio in 2009.

Birdie Yarn Bowls | UncommonGoods
Birdie Yarn Bowl | UncommonGoods

On his process, Aaron says, “creativity as a designer follows the need to solve a problem.” In the case of one of his most popular designs, this problem was the unrolling of yarn. After two separate friends asked him if he made yarn bowls, he researched the concept, made some prototypes, literally put a bird on it, and the Birdie Yarn Bowl came to be. Each yarn bowl begins as a ball of clay that is then thrown by hand on the potter’s wheel. Once the bowl firms up, the bird is added, then the hook and holes. After an initial firing and glazing, each bird is painted by hand, then fired one more time to seal it all in.

Painting the Birdie Bowl | UncommonGoods

Aaron works out of his 500 square foot basement, painting each individual bird himself and packing each completed yarn bowl for shipping. “It’s not uncommon to find my children wrapped in bubble wrap or making packing peanut soup for their dolls,” says Aaron of his at-home operation. For inspiration while he works, Aaron keeps drawings from his children around, as well as a LEGO calendar (“my second favorite pastime after ceramics”), and an architectural drawing of an observatory from his father.

Aaron's Studio
Packing the bowls

With all this inspiration by his side, it’s no wonder Aaron’s work has been featured in Knit Simple, Vogue Knitting, and Knit Scene. Though he’s “still waiting for Oprah or Martha Stewart to place their orders,” Aaron gets immense satisfaction from the feedback of others, telling him that his piece inspired them to be more creative. Both this and the opportunity to work from home are the ultimate pay-off. “Sitting at the wheel three to four hours a day, working long into the night to finish an order, and the physical strain of manipulating the clay can take its toll,” says Aaron, “but I am working for myself and I can see my children grow up. In the end, it’s a tremendous blessing and extremely satisfying.”

Buy the Birdie Yarn Bowl | UncommonGoods

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: iMitt DIY Mitten Kit

December 10, 2010

Product Name: iMitt DIY Mitten Kit

Background Research:

I can knit in stockinette all day long, but can I actually knit a fitted mitten? I’m not just testing out this knit kit, but also testing my skills. The real challenge will be, can I finish these mittens in time for cold weather?

Hypothesis:

Using the iMitt DIY mitten kit, with everything I need included, I can teach myself to knit mittens before winter really kicks into gear.

Experiment:

I was a bit nervous when I laid out all the materials in front of me. Two balls of sage green yarn, a pair of circular needles, stitch markers, a yarn cutter and a daunting set of instructions. And these weren’t normal mittens; they had openings for my fingers so I could operate a smart phone in the cold. What had I gotten myself into? I’d just tweeted that I’d be finishing these mittens soon, so I had no choice but to get started.

Check out some of the work in progress photos.

Well it took a few tries, and the help of some friendly YouTube vloggers, but I did it!

Results:

The mittens were knit! And the weather reports are calling for snow. I finished just in time.

This kit did have about everything I needed. I grabbed a ruler to check my measurements and kept my laptop on so I could get a second opinion on some of the instructions. The pattern was pretty daunting for a self-taught knitter like myself. I consulted YouTube and about.com frequently, restarted a few times, but it all came together. And the challenge was definitely worth it.

One thing I learned was that the woman’s small still ran too big for my tiny hands. I adjusted the pattern to start with 36 stitches and that worked much better. If you’re knitting for a child, or like me, you have ridiculously small hands, be sure to adjust the pattern before you get started.

Conclusion:

When I first saw the shape of a mitten emerging from my needles, I knew I’d done it. And there is nothing like that feeling of accomplishment. I couldn’t recommend the iMitt DIY mitten kit enough to all your crafty friends.

The mittens are super cute, warm, and have a perfect sized opening for my thumb and pointer. Now I just need to get an iPhone!

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