Blog

Cara Corey Designs
  • A few changes

    If you have found this blog, I'm impressed! I'm sorry to have neglected it so much over the past year, but I just didn't have time to maintain it anymore. As you can see, I have consolidated my knitting business (formerly Mary Marie Knits) with my pattern shop (Cara Corey Designs) and my blog, so that you can find all of it in one place. When I went to the Craftcation business and makers conference last year, I got some good feedback about how all of my business names were confusing, so I thought I would do my best to simplify. And it feels a lot better to have done it. 

    The downside to consolidation is that I lost a lot of my categorization of blog posts, so I now have a lot of broken links to deal with. And I need to reorganize my recipes because that was one feature I really liked! But in general all of the posts are still here and you can subscribe with my link to get new posts. 

    Last year was a really hard year to do anything new. Having a 4 and 1-year-old took all the energy I had. But I am really excited to get back to making more knit items and patterns. And I am most excited to put more effort into teaching classes, which has been good for business and good for my soul. My knit rope basket and crochet blanket classes have been doing really well, and I have more ideas for classes to expand on those skills. I'm always open to more ideas for classes. In fact, most of my classes came from student requests. 

    So here's to more making in 2018. P.S. I'm also excited to share that my rope basket class is available as a kit!

  • New knits for fall

    Even though the seasons don't change much around here, I am finding myself so ready for fall. Bring on the sweaters and football!

    I have just added some new products to my Etsy shop that will be perfect come colder weather.

    Super chunky knit cowls


    Reversible slouch hats


    Lightweight fingerless gloves

    I've also started offering my most popular sized pouf, the extra large (approximately 18x13 inches), in a thicker knit that resembles my rope poufs.

    It comes stuffed with foam, but if you go with the stuff-it-yourself option, it looks like this.

    I also have been at work for a long time on a homemade yarn that resembles the rope. I love the look of the rope, but need a more consistent, higher-quality product. I think I have finally figured out how to do it, and hopefully soon I will be able to start replacing some items with that yarn.

    So my shop is kind of in transition right now, but I'm really excited for new products and what's yet to come.

    Miss Harper has been helping model my baby legwarmers.

    It's fun to watch her keep growing into the next size. And thanks to my lovely sister Megan for modeling my other knit products. She sure makes them look good!

  • Shiny new web site

    I'm so excited to share that my business has a new web site. It was one of my goals this year to have a more professional looking web presence and I actually made it happen! I built it with Virb, which I found to be incredibly well-designed and easy to use. Thanks, Sarah, for the tip. 

    You can check it out by going to marymarieknits.com.

  • Re:Make this weekend

    Tomorrow is my first show of the year and the first one I've done since Harper was born. It's called Re:Make and it's hosted by the cool DIY site Brit + Co

    I'll have all the usual goodies for fall:

    Hats in a reversible knit style,

    fingerless gloves,

    chunky cowls,

    and baby legwarmers in a bunch of sizes and colors.

    I was hoping to have some of these cute elephants made, but I ran out of time!

    I have quite a few poufs this time, too.

    It looks like there are going to be a ton of cool vendors there, so if you're in the area I hope you can make it. It's a good chance to shop for handmade goods before holiday shopping goes totally nuts!

  • My rope baskets in Parade

    I don't know if any of you still get a print newspaper, but you probably remember the Parade magazine insert on Sundays. This Sunday they are doing a big story on the handmade movement, and they were nice enough to mention my rope baskets!

    Go here for the full story. 

    Go here for the slide show that includes my basket. 

    I still sell my baskets on Etsy: Small / Large / Set of two

    Or, if you'd like to make your own, I sell the pattern on Etsy and Ravelry

    Of course the handmade movement is nothing new to me, but it's nice to see it get some attention. 

  • Sunday's show

    I've been hearing a lot about the cool indie shops in Temescal Alley, so I was excited when I found out I could be part of their holiday artisan fair this weekend.

    I'll have all the usual knit goodies. And I might even have (at long last) a sample pouf made with my felted cord. I just shipped my first order for one, and it turned out exactly as I'd hoped. The process needs some work, but I'm getting there.

    If you get a chance, come check out the fair and the cute little shops nearby.

  • Last show of the year!

    Just a reminder that the Renegade Craft Fair is coming up this weekend in San Francisco. I'll be there with all the usual goodies. Hopefully people are still looking for last-minute gifts!

  • Goals for 2014

    Maybe if I put them here I'll be more likely to remember them!

    It would be pretty hard to top 2013. Unless my only goal was to get more sleep, which would be hard not to do.

    I'd like to...

    • Think a little more about self care and maybe an occasional ladies night.

    • Wean Harper when we're both ready.

    • Get back to a lot of the healthy habits that worked for me before. Firing up the Nutribullet I got for Christmas, for starters. Taking more walks, etc.

    • Reorganize my wardrobe (currently a huge mess) so that I have a cute daily uniform that does not include yoga pants. 

    • Work on overcoming my fear of flying, which always makes travel so uncomfortable. Our last trip was better. I want to believe this is possible.

    • Pursue buying a house. We've already gotten started on this one.

    • Pay off as much debt as we can. We got a bit derailed in 2013 when we added a third person to our house.

    • Find a daycare provider so I can work part-time some days. 

    • Plan some more nights out and trips with Mike.

    • Have my products available in more local venues. Already making some progress on this one.

    • Continue working to simplify my product line to make it more cost-effective with the limited time I have.

    • Design new products using super thick wool and my own wool cord. Most excited for this!

    And finally, I am going to rework my blog a little. I have to pick a new design because my Wordpress theme is no longer supported. With that I think I will pare down posting a little since I have very limited free time anyway. I still want to post recipes, thoughts on motherhood, and information about my business. But instead of double posting all my travel photos here and on Facebook, I think I will just post them there for friends and family. For DIY projects I will continue posting on the Goodsmiths blog. And I'm thinking about pursuing some other freelance work if it fits in the picture. 

    I'm sure it's the same for everyone, but the year you have your first baby sort of knocks you off your foundation and you have to wobble your way back to a steady self. Life with a toddler and a baby business is hard, but it's good, and it's a little easier everyday. Here's to a happy and healthy 2014 to all of you!

  • One sweet show

    I know it's been a while, but I just felt like I had to say what a great time I had at the Temescal Alley holiday fair. 

    It was an especially chilly day for the bay area, so I had cozy items that could appeal to both shoppers and sellers. At one point I looked around and at least 3 people in view were wearing my things. That was a pretty awesome feeling.

    I also bought some goodies from vendors around me. This adorable upcycled dress for Harper came from Berit's Lilla

    And I had to get one of Jen Hewett's screenprinted bags, which I gifted to a friend.

    It always feels good to have a successful show, but I also loved being part of the spirit of the indie shops that line the alleys. It kind of reminded me of friends who opened shops in Des Moines' East Village. Fun people, doing what they love, making an old neighborhood new again. In this case, tiny shops came out of old horse stables and carriage houses. 

    My photos don't do it justice, but it really is a cool place to shop. Maybe one of these days I'll get to Doughnut Dolly before they sell out. :)

    Bonus: Now I have a few rope baskets at Walrus, a cute shop full of upcycled household items. 

  • Workshop reveal

    I can't believe I can finally say this: The workshop is finished!

    Well, nothing is ever truly finished around here. I still have a lot of smaller projects I'd like to do. But I can say I have a functional workspace and it looks amazing.

    Here's what the inside of the workshop looked like before.

    Actually, when we first bought the house the workshop didn't even have lights or electricity. It was basically a garage with a dirty cabinet and a partially finished closet.

    It was never really meant to be a finished building, but that's what I needed so we made do with what we had. Some of the wood in the ceiling looked like it had been salvaged from another building, so I think it was a DIY project from the start.

    So, a few weeks ago, Mike and his dad started work on the drywall. It's something we will probably never DIY again because it's so much work, but it was a good thing for them to do together. I know Mike learned a lot about construction and got several new tools out of it.

    After they sealed holes, patched uneven wood beams and put in insulation, they did the drywall, tape and mud.

    That was about when my mom arrived, so we had to move everything that had been jammed in her room outside. What a mess!

    Part of the problem (in addition to the workshop being smaller than my old workspace) was that I had never had a chance to go through all my stuff before we moved and get rid of things I didn't need. I didn't even know what I didn't need until I tried to move into the new space.

    In the meantime, Mike and I worked on painting the old cabinet and replacing the damaged wood on top. He cut the boards and stained them a nice color.

    Check out that crazy old paper inside!

    I painted the drawers white and replaced all the hardware.

    And then everything was ready. The paint-stained cement floor needed something to make it look a little better, so I got an outdoor rug from Target.

    So, drumroll please... here's how it looks now.

    I painted the peg boards lemongrass and then installed them on the back wall, which brings the whole room together. 

    I was so excited to use my Pyrex bowls as useful displays. They're holding all the ribbons, thread, buttons and other sewing supplies my mom and I have between us.

    Another corner of the room is my shipping center. Shelves were key to getting the most out of the vertical space in the room.

    Sadly my yarn display is almost totally empty! Time to reorder.

    I'm glad I had plenty of wall space for artwork and photos, including one of my grandmother. She watches over the shop.

    The back of the room is a bit messy, but my felt scraps and extra foam and stuffing have to go somewhere.

    I originally thought I would leave the old gray paint on the closet door but now it looks so grungy I think I'm definitely going to paint it. Inside the closet we're storing all of our signs and things for sales, plus some of mom's items to sell on eBay. 

    Sometime I'd like to paint my desk and the yarn display since nothing matches. Then I'd like to find a vintage wood file cabinet with 4 drawers so I don't have to have two cabinets precariously stacked.

    The final piece is painting the exterior and maybe getting a new light and a sign for the door. I'm picturing something cute that says "Mary Marie Knits world headquarters."

  • Saying goodbye to grandma Mason

    Earlier this week my beloved grandma, Mary Marie Mason, passed away. Obviously she meant a great deal to me. She was my inspiration as a crafter, wife, mother and overall person. I'm not sure I know a kinder person in this world. 

    It was heartbreaking for my mom, who was planning to go visit grandma in just a few days, not to be there. One minute we heard that grandma had been taken to the hospital for something fairly minor and the next minute she was in critical condition with a blood clot. So there was no time for us to say our goodbyes. However, I'm sure she knew how much we loved her. And my uncle said that she seemed at peace knowing that she would probably not survive this ordeal. Perhaps realizing her body was failing her after a broken hip, she got to a place that none of us quite realized. So in a way I feel like she was spared a difficult road of transitions, loss of mobility and memory, and everything painful that comes with old age. 

    It's really easy for me to speak in glowing superlatives about my grandma because she really was that extraordinary of a person. She graduated high school early and went to college, eventually becoming a teacher. She was actually a pretty sweet, diminutive person who stayed home to raise her children and loved the traditionally female realm (cooking, sewing, decorating, church choir...). But she had an extraordinary heart. She never had much in the way of material things, but she would give you anything, anything you needed if she could. She gave up a lot to care for her mentally ill sister and later her husband. And she survived cancer. Twice.

    Grandma was incredibly resourceful and thrifty. I don't think she ever threw away a mayonnaise jar or a Cool Whip tub if she could reuse it. She put shower caps over her bowls to keep food fresh in the fridge. She was a dedicated letter writer and she always tucked a bunch of clipped coupons inside her letters. She sewed her own clothes and even doll clothes and little Barbie-sized pillows for us when we were little. She made the most intricate counted cross-stitch samplers, many of which we have framed and will cherish. Her baking was so comforting — pecan pie at Thanksgiving and lemon bars and frosted sugar cookies at Christmas. Her potato salad was legendary and she always had some in the fridge. 

    But you know what I will never forget about grandma? Her hugs. When she saw you she would wrap her arms around you and squeeze you to your bones. And for a long time. It's like she hugged you from her soul. It just felt good. 

    I also always admired my grandparents' marriage. They were happily married for more than 50 years. They seemed to have mutual interests and mutual respect for each other that you don't often see. It slays me to think of them walking down a sidewalk holding hands or my grandma washing grandpa's hair in the sink when he couldn't anymore. 

    My mom was saying how we carry on grandma's legacy every day by raising Harper. My grandma loved children. She wanted several but was lucky just to be able to have two since she had endometriosis that was not easily treated at the time. I think she was probably most proud of her family — all smart, loving people doing interesting things. I'm only sorry that she couldn't be here to see more of the next generation born. I guess that's the hardest thing to accept — that the people you love most won't live forever and that someday you will have to let them go. 

    It's a nice feeling to know that every time someone orders something with me they will get a little tribute to my grandma and her legacy of art, craft, thrift, and love. 

    XO grandma. Miss you already. 

  • I'm teaching a class!

    I've always thought it would be fun to teach a knitting class. So when the opportunity to teach one at Gather came up, I jumped. Gather is the awesome boutique in San Francisco that sells my rope baskets and some of my other knit accessories. They also have a big space that's perfect for craft workshops. I'm going to be showing people how to arm knit a cowl, which could not be a quicker or easier craft. We'll make a cowl that looks like this.

    All the details are here. Gather provides wine and snacks, which is a sweet bonus!

  • What's new for 2015

    I've changed so many things in my shop lately that I can't even remember what it used to look like! But really I have the same items I've always carried, just with some improvements.

    For starters, all of my yarn poufs and stuff-it-yourself kits now come with a sewn bag rather than a drawstring bag. The bag makes a pouf with a perfectly rounded shape, and it has a Velcro closure that makes it easy to add more stuffing.

    These poufs also have a drawstring closure on the knit cover so that the cover can be easily removed for washing and put back on. I'm still mulling over adding a similar closure to the wool cord poufs, but they are much easier to open/close to begin with that I'm not sure they need anything different.

    Speaking of wool cord, I finally settled on a yarn that I really love for these poufs, and it comes in 22 gorgeous colors.

    It's been really fun making these poufs in a variety of colors for customers.

    This is the burnt orange.

    I also added some new colors to my regular yarn offerings, so there are 20 to choose from instead of 16.

    What kept me crazy busy in December was having items in 3 local stores (see links on the sidebar). I'm almost to the point of having to reduce my online offerings so that I have time to make hats and cowls. So, to save that precious, toddler-free work time, I've been working on making bigger knits that work up really quickly.

    These hats are made from super thick Peruvian wool. I love working with this yarn. I came up with a beanie, a slouch hat and a roll brim hat that are really cute and flattering.

    And I've also been selling a lot of arm knit cowls at Studio 333 Downtown. They come in two sizes, small (single loop) and large (double loop).

    Still on my to-do list this year: add a medium-size pouf to my Etsy shop, add more patterns to my pattern shop, and list baskets and rugs made of wool cord. They are pricier than the cotton rope, but I found after so much frustration trying to dye the rope and work with its inconsistency, that wool cord was the way to go.

  • Stripey baby leg warmers

    Unfortunately, the now-defunct Goodsmiths site has finally come down. So a lot of my blog projects that had been published there have disappeared. I'm not going to try to save all of them, but I would like to re-post some patterns that I have posted on Ravelry, and add some new ones. 

    I'm gonna start with this baby leg warmer pattern because I enjoyed making these so much for Harper when she was a baby. 

    They're made with a fuzzy acrylic yarn that is machine washable and comes in a lot of great colors. You can knit them up plain or go with the stripe sequence I came up with. And if you like that yarn, you can also get my pattern for stretchy leg warmers that will grow with your kiddo from my Etsy pattern shop

    Stripey baby leg warmers
    sized for 0-3 months
    make 2

    Materials:

    • Lion Brand Jiffy yarn in colors: grape (A), country green (B), silver heather (C), and dark grey heather (D), (or any combination of 4 colors you like)
    *Note: Lion discontinued this yarn :( but there are other similar yarns out there. Because of the fuzziness, these were in the bulky category. 

    • Size 10.5 straight knitting needles

    • Yarn needle to sew up seams

    Instructions:

    Cast on 18 stitches, leaving a 14-inch tail so you can sew up the seam at the end. Using a stockinette pattern (knit one row, purl one row), follow this stripe sequence:

    5 rows A

    4 rows B

    2 rows C

    3 rows D

    2 rows A

    3 rows C

    1 row B

    4 rows D

    3 rows A

    2 rows C

    Bind off on your last row of C. Using your yarn needle, weave in any loose strings to the back side of the piece and snip off the ends. You can actually use these ends to carefully sew up the seam, matching the colors on each side. But if you don't have the patience for that (half the time I don't!), you can just use the long tail from the beginning of your work to sew up the seam. 

    To make plain leg warmers, follow these instructions. You will only need one skein per pair. 

    0-3 months 
    Cast on 18 stitches. Knit in stockinette pattern until piece measures  7 inches. Bind off. 

    3-6 months
    Cast on 20 stitches. Knit in stockinette pattern until piece measures 8 inches. Bind off. 

    6-12 months
    Cast on 22 stitches. Knit in stockinette pattern until piece measures 9 inches. Bind off. 

    Finishing

    With right sides facing, use the long tail of yarn you left at the beginning of the piece to sew a seam all the way up to the top. You can use mattress stitch, or your favorite seaming stitch. Then snip off any extra yarn and turn the leg warmer right-side-out. Repeat with the second one. 

    *If you don't want a seam, you can always knit with DPNs or a magic loop instead. 

  • Cozy knit reversible cowl

    Here's another freebie pattern that I absolutely love for fall and winter. This cowl is super warm and cozy, and the bonus is that it is ribbed on one side and bobbly on the other. You can wear it long like a scarf, or doubled up around your neck. Or you can even pull it over your head like a hood or lower on your shoulders like a shawl.

    Cozy knit reversible cowl

    Materials

    • 3 skeins Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick and Quick yarn in cranberry (or your favorite color)
    Other super bulky yarns would work great for this, too.

    • Size US 15/10 mm straight knitting needles

    • Yarn needle to sew up the seam

    Instructions

    Cast on 32 stitches.
    Row 1: K1P1 across.
    Row 2: Knit.
    Repeat these two rows until the piece measures 52 inches. Bind off on last knit row, leaving a long tail to sew up the seam.

    With right sides facing and using the long tail of yarn, sew up the seam using mattress stitch or your favorite seaming stitch. Weave in any ends and turn the piece right-side-out.

    *You could also just leave the piece as a scarf and make it longer or shorter. Up to you!

  • Super bulky cowl

    If you're looking for a project that works up quickly (a la the arm-knit cowl), try this one. I can have one of these babies finished in half an hour!

    At first this project came up out of necessity — my other cowl patterns were just taking too long to make, especially when I needed to make lots of them for shows. But now I think I would make this cowl anyway, just because it is so cute and so warm.

    Super bulky cowl

    Materials

    • 4 skeins Lion Brand wool-ease thick and quick yarn in navy (or your favorite color). *Note: 2 skeins is actually just the right amount for this cowl, but you will have to separate them into 4 equal parts to make the cowl.
    Other super bulky weight yarns would also work great for this.

    • Size US 50/25 mm knitting needles (the biggest they have, baby)

    • yarn needle to weave in ends

    Instructions

    Start by holding 4 strands of yarn together and tying a knot in the end. Leave a few inches of tail and then cast on 6 stitches.

    Work in garter stitch (knitting every row) until the piece measures approximately 48 inches. Bind off, leaving about 12 inches of tail to sew up the seam.

    Tie another knot on the end of the tail and then use it to seam the two ends of the cowl together. I usually just do this part with my hands. When you're done, you can cut off the knots from both tails and then use the yarn needle to weave any remaining ends into the cowl. I usually make a few knots just so the seam is nice and secure. Then snip off any extra yarn.

    The garter stitch pattern makes this cowl nice and stretchy, so you can wear it doubled up or let it hang longer like a scarf. 

  • Spring show!

    I haven't done a show for a while, so I thought it was about time I signed up for one again. Shows aren't really my bread and butter anymore, but I love doing them because they kind of energize you in a way that online sales can't. You get to meet and talk to your customers and fellow vendors and see what else is out there in the handmade community. 

    Having recently joined the SF Etsy team (which numbers 1,800!), I'm excited to be vending at their spring indie emporium in San Francisco. Here are the details. If you're in the area, I hope you can make it!

  • My first class on Skillshare!

    I feel like my personal motto these last few years has been "be brave." So when I'm afraid to do something I try to keep that in my head. And so even though the idea of filming myself teaching a crafts class was a little overwhelming, I decided to do it anyway!

    I recently published my first class on Skillshare. If you're not familiar, Skillshare is an online platform where you can pay a monthly fee to take as many video classes as you want. A lot of them are crafts/DIY related (knitting, calligraphy, drawing, etc.), but a lot of them are things like editing in Photoshop or getting more followers on Instagram. Good stuff!

    One of my most popular patterns on Etsy and Ravelry is for a rope basket, so I decided to flesh that one out and explain in more detail for my first class. I really think it helps to see someone knitting the stitches and doing all the different steps in real time. 

    So, if you want to take my class, you can enroll here. You should be able to use that link to get your first 3 months of Skillshare for $.99. BONUS: The first 25 students can take the class for free! 

    As intimidating as this was, I still really enjoyed it and am already thinking about what classes I can teach next. :)

  • My next Skillshare class

    If you've ever wanted to try arm knitting, here's your chance! I just put up my second class on Skillshare.
    Intro to arm knitting: make a quick cowl

    As always, you can use my link to get a discount on signing up for Skillshare.

    The class teaches you single and double loop options.

    And, for the rest of October, a limited number of students can take my class for free.

    Now that Max is in daycare, I have some free time to film more classes, so I'm working on some for my giant knitting channel. If there's anything you want to learn, let me know!

  • New items and new classes!

    Some of my most popular items lately have been for kids (or adults who want to tap into childlike whimsy, apparently), so I have started offering them on Etsy. These animal hoods have been a big hit, so I'm making them in fox, bear, bunny and cat. 

    And these adorable crowns come in 3 sizes (baby/toddler, child and adult).

    I'm also beyond thrilled that some super huge yarns have become available commercially (mostly at Michaels craft stores). And so I have been using them to make arm-knit cowls and these new giant hats.

    If you want to make your own hat, here is the pattern. I've also made it available as a class on Skillshare. And I added a class on how to make your own wool cord for giant knitting projects. Holiday gifts, maybe?

    I'm super excited to get to work on some more projects with these jumbo yarns. They are awesome!