Posts categorized "Musing"

The Blanket

The simple facts: Emma asked for a hand-knit blanket. I like to knit blankets (they're simple comfort knitting and always fit the recipient) so I started knitting in January. It would be her take-to-university-blanket. Nothing to see here.

The longer story: We decided on a pattern. Chose the yarn. Bought more yarn when I miscalculated how much Eco-Wool I would need (6 skeins in case you're wondering--this blanket weighs more than 2 kg).

I knit on this almost exclusively for six months; panicking a bit when the weather got warmer and wondered if I could get it done on time (there was some target setting--can you tell I'm a project manager?).

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Emma did her things: school, homework, friends, cello, piano, a lead in The Drowsy Chaperone, movie watching, prom, teen stuff. She also chose a university and decided her "what's next". Science (probably majoring in Physics) at Western University.

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She finished high school with honours. I finished the blanket shortly after. The pieces were stitched together. 

Metaphor? Maybe.

Or just how a knitter does things. Stitching beautiful objects that bring warmth and comfort.

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I'm getting teary--which is probably why I haven't pronounced the blanket complete on social media... 

Emma leaves on Sunday. She has her blanket, her determination, her smarts and her sense of adventure. She's ready (mostly). I'm ready (mostly). Time for the next big project.

 


Submersion

I have been playing with all the yarn.

The last two weekends I have spun, knit, wove, finished some handspan, finished something for my nephew, finished a sock, started the second sock, started new handspun and made significant progress on my Occam scarf. 

I feel like I'm back to my old crafty self and I feel great.

Here's what I've been up to...

Fitzcarraldo Knee Sock number one. It's *almost perfect. After what felt like months of knitting the twisted ribbed cuff, I think the part just before the cuff is a touch too tight. 

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I'm putting it in the time out corner while I work on the second sock.

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I will tackle the problem on both socks at the same time. This is mostly because I can't face ripping out all that ribbing. Maybe my calves will slim down or I'll get taller or something.

It will totally be worth fixing; these socks are a thing of beauty.

I also finished something for the wee baby Mitchell for Christmas, but wish to avoid spoilers so no photos yet. Trust me, it is the height of CUTENESS.

Occam is almost done. I really like it. I decided to do the medium width and the longer length and I'm going to run out of blue yarn, so I'm modifying. If you notice, don't say anything okay ;)

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Last weekend I also decided to weave. Check out this fabulous pooled warp (Indigodragonfly Wingenhooven in Dminion Unhinged). I ran into a bit of trouble by warping the loom backwards (which took some fixing, let me tell you...) so I'm not sure how pooled it'll be when it's done. I think the merino, yak, silk around my neck will solve any issues with the colour.

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And lastly I've been continuing with Spinning Sundays. Last week I plied the last of a big project using beautiful Lisa Souza BFL I bought not long after getting my first wheel. The yarn is big and fat and squishy. It's drying now and looks amazing. Photos to come. 

Today I pulled out a 4oz braid and set to work on making some worsted spun yarn for mittens.

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The colour is Captain Tightpants, fibre is yak and merino from Into The Whirled and nothing about this project is bad.

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Distracted

I've developed a bad habit. It's not like biting my nails or eating chips while I make dinner (I only do that once in a while, I swear). Instead it's a retreat into a cycle of doing a whole lot of nothing which fills time when I could be doing something else.

Here's how it plays out: I have a few moments to relax or I need second to unwind and I flip open the iPad and start looking at Twitter. Then I get engrossed in whatever is on my feed and it eats a ton of time (it could be anything like some great science story, a knitting discussion, a string of funny things (love Swear Trek) or well, that orange spectre who is consuming almost everyone's attention right now). Then I might check my email, play Two Dots or just tap around on the screen and I realize I've wasted time I could have used to knit, read a novel, tidy up, run,  watch TV and I get angry at myself about it.

Worse still, I notice it's become a family habit. We all have screen distractions and we have to consciously choose to put them down and interact, or do homework or play piano or just DO something. 

Yes, the screens are compelling and I like to know what's going on in my community (both actual and virtual) and around the world, but it's become so easy to retreat into that space and disconnect while connecting. I think the crappiness of the last year work-wise and the resultant fatigue helped entrench some of my behaviour. Now I'm trying harder to be mindful about spending my time before I grab my phone. Saying it here is one of those ways I keep myself accountable (and try, yet again, to blog more often!)

We started last night but watching a movie together (we rewatched Brave) and tonight I'm going to knit my never-ending Occam scarf and perhaps go for a run. 

It's not all distracted doom and gloom around here. I finished a blanket for my fabulous new nephew (I'm finally an Auntie!) Mitchell who is not yet ready for a debut on social media and am working on his woolly wardrobe. The kids are really great and parenting teens is just the right amount of challenging. AND I have a new job that is really awesome and even energizing. All are much better distractions.

 

 


Restored

A last-minute decision to take a longer-long weekend was just the thing I needed. This summer has been a different one for me. Due to some obligations at home (teens need a lot of chauffeuring to their commitments) and work (where I'm filling in for someone on sick leave) I just didn't get to do the things I normally do: Like swimming in a lake, relaxing on the weekends and beating the heat by doing more than hiding in my air conditioned house.

When my brother and sister-in-law told me that no-one was going to be at their cottage Labour Day weekend, I leapt at the chance to be by the lake doing those things I love. I took the Thursday and Friday off and up we went to just do a whole lot of nothing. 

I drank beers with my legs in the lake. I sat watching the water with my coffee and reading in the morning. I read a whole book. Xander and I hunted Pokemon until we ran out of cell signal.

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I finished the pieces on my summer sweater (which I wasn't rushing to finish because even a summer sweater was too much to wear this year) AND wove in all the ends on the baby blanket on the outside table with the lake in view to make the job easier.

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We played board games at night and I discovered Xander is a kick-ass Scrabble player. I ate PopTarts and too many Oreo Thins (which are delicious). And I went paddle boarding and didn't fall in the lake.

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Yesterday while I was in bobbing in the lake, it hit me. I feel good. I feel like my old self. It's been a while and I took a few seconds to lament how challenging the last few years have been and how much being in a bad work situation really messed with me. Now that I've been out of it for two months, I see how feeling down-trodden and angry all the time really colours everything including my time not at work. And while I'm fortunate to have a good-paying job in a great place, that's not enough to sustain me. 

Having this little rest (and another one coming very soon--we're taking a 3 day canoe trip in Algonquin Park next Friday) really have restored me. Now I need to work on my strategy to keep things this way.

 


Off Hiatus

I didn't mean to let the time go by like it did. I actually had blog posts in my head from time to time that I just never got around to writing. Some ended up on Twitter and others just filled my head while biking to work, or out on a run, or while quietly knitting but never made it here.

It's too bad. These posts were about my great friends celebrating a birthday together at a winery. My secondment to a revitalizing new (albeit temporary) role that is exactly what I needed. Our family trip to Montreal and my 46th birthday. The fabulous gradient batt I spun up.

I guess that's all to say that while no one may end up reading this and because knit blogs may have had their time but only the most popular remain, I get something out of posting and I enjoy this partial diary of my life. Even if I'm away for a bit, I haven't left forever.

With that, here are some pictures of the spinning because it really is nifty.

I plan to knit some sort of shawlette that capitalizes on the colour. I have 300 yards so should be fine.

Spinning Sundays are yielding great results for me. My current project is to tackle some Lisa Souza BFL I bought not long after I bought my first wheel--so a long time ago. I have a whole pound which should make a sweater. I'm spinning about worsted weight and will use Custom Fit for the garment because it'll generate a pattern to my gauge. I love that I can spin the yarn that feels right at the time and then make a pattern that fits my yarn and me.

I'm one bobbin in and it's gorgeous. Deep teals with some purples and greens. It's lovely and relaxing to spin.

Hiatus is over. I'll try my best to write more often, especially since I plan to have some (small) adventures in both yarn and life.

 


Tight. But Not Terrible.

The ribbon is on the skirt waist.

The skirt doesn't fit.

It's not really a surprise, I've put on a bit of weight in the last year. I have no idea how much because I don't own a scale. I do notice some of my "skinny" pieces are pretty tight right now and there's stuff I'm not wearing because they're not comfortable. A scale will merely put a number on what I already know.

Whatever.

I'm going to be more careful with my portion size, really cut back on alcohol (seriously, I've been doing a lot of social nights out for drinks in the last year for a bunch of reasons--some fun, some as a balm for rough times at work) and just be more mindful of what I consume. 

As for the skirt, well I suspect I was really relying on the stretchiness of  the fabric to make it fit and it makes more sense to add another repeat (or two) and get this right. 

The nice thing about the pattern is that it was easy enough to rip back the button holes and keep going (Confession, I ripped back, picked up the live stitches and then went and spun up some fibre because I need to take this whole unfinishing a finished project in chunks to keep the frustration down). 

Following some clever folks on Ravelry, I also plan to use snaps instead of buttonholes to keep it all nice looking. I do wish I had made it shorter, but there's no fixing that. I was even musing about turning it into a jumper by picking up stitches at the waist and working up (similar to what I did with my Ella coat) but that might be a tad too crazy. Or just too warm a dress even for a Canadian winter.

Now I'm looking at knit dresses.

Amherst:


Bressay

The City in Winter 

Now I'm getting crazy ideas about doing a Custom Fit sweater that I could graft to Carnaby to make a dress. That's what I love about knitting--even when it goes wrong, I have the fun of thinking about how to make my work better. 


Knitters, you'll understand this one

It was cold today in Toronto. It felt really cold because it's been unseasonably warm lately and suddenly the temperature dropped to like -15C. I wasn't ready.

On a day like today, I did what all good knitters do and loaded up on the knitwear. My Gretel beret, Nordic mittens, a seed stitch cowl and my Grey Mist Bohus; one of the nicest, most complicated things I've ever made (and also hacked to make smaller).

image from acunningplan.typepad.com

What non-knitters notice today? Compliment the most? Talked about as an example of my fine work?

The seed stitch cowl.

image from farm6.static.flickr.com

A project I made with a bunch of leftovers on a whim. The thing I made without a pattern or much thought. Sure it's a nice big squishy neck piece and it keeps out the cold. It's even sorta soft.

But it's not knit with angora/merino at 8 freakin stitches to the inch.

There isn't colour work where you have shades of white, bone, fawn, silver and pewter so subtle you have to knit it in full sun to be sure you're getting it right!

And, truth be told, that cowl isn't as warm as my Bohus.

 

Really, non-knitting people? Really?!

 

I just needed to get that out. To feel appreciated by my knitting-folk. I knew you'd understand.

Perhaps the cowl is the pinnacle of knitting when you're surrounded by piles of white acrylic scarves at the mall and when you look at them, they don't look all the difficult to make. It's familiar compared to a sweater that one can't even comprehend someone sitting down and knitting.

Yeah, thinking that will keep me warm...


Grey*

Remember way back in the Fall when I mentioned I would stop colouring me hair and see what my natural colour was?  It's done and it's pretty spectacular.

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Aside from my regrowth roots, I estimate that I haven't seen my natural hair colour since just after I had Alexander in 2000.  I cut it very short and then in a fit of sleeplessness and a "OMG I have two children" moment, I bleached it (which turned it pumpkin orange) and then tried to fix it (which thankfully, the sleep deprivation has wiped the results of that out of my memory) and I've been colouring it ever since.

When I made this decision (inspired by the fabulously awesome Julia Farwell-Clay) I went looking for photos of women in their 40s with grey hair.  There aren't many--though there are a million photos of Jamie Lee Curtis who looks amazing--so I thought I would take a picture after each hair cut so that those of you considering this could see how the grow-out goes.

Having pixie-short hair makes this an easier process.  I made the decision in October and I was 99% colour free by June, completely natural after my July 29th cut.  I get my hair cut every 5-6 weeks (which seems economical since I stopped paying for professional colour) so it's a fairly fast process.

October (just had a cut and colour for Rhinebeck):

Brandied orange

In mid-December my stylist suggested adding light blonde highlights just to the top to even things out and hide the obvious root line.  It looked great, but I probably could have skipped this step.  It was December and cold and I usually have my head covered.  I think I panicked a bit.

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January: sorry for the bad lighting. I really have just a bit of re-growth and I discover I'm not as grey on top as I am on the sides.

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March: mostly blonde on top.  Stylist kept the top longer to maximize my colour investment.

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April: sides and back are natural, still have blonde colour on top.  It did look a bit weird by this point, but the fabulous white streak I discovered in the front made up for it.

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I just happened to get the chance to have some professional head-shots done a few days later (and the photographer insisted on a knitting one!).  I'm still mostly blonde on top.  

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May: I started loving my hair at this point. It was a mix of grey and blonde and I started getting it cut shorter which I personally prefer.  I was feeling good about my decision to ditch the colour.

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June: I'm grey.  Both greyer than I thought and perhaps, not grey enough.  My natural colour is pure ash-blah.  I remember when my hair went from blonde to this non-colour and how washed out I used to look.  The silver gives it a pop and I like it, but it there are moments where I feel I look old or perhaps not so stylish (dowdy would the word fashionable people might use, but that's too-judgemental--greying men don't get told they look dowdy.)

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That white streak is amazing though.

July: My hair is natural and pretty fantastic.  I like it.  I really like colouring my hair for fun, but feel much better not HAVING to colour my hair to hide the grey or maintain a shade that isn't mine. Natural hair colour has far more depth and shade going on--I'm a hand-dyed yarn compared to a commercially-dyed one :)

I also like the quiet (or perhaps not so quiet) fuck you to gendered ideas about aging that comes with showing my grey.  I was referred to as "the silver haired woman" recently and after the hit of feeling old, I decided it was an okay description because there aren't many silver-haired 45 year old women around. 

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If I get bored, I can add some colour.  Something fun and completely unnatural.  I'm thinking electric blue.  

 

 

*I just have to say that those books and that movie have totally messed with my desire to use the term shades of grey to refer to my hair.  A quick google tells me that grey is the newest trend and all the cool kids are dyeing their hair.  WTF?


Challenge and Reward


I had a challenging week. The good kind of challenging where I got to stretch myself, try new things, learn stuff and remember that I really like my job. But it was also a sixty hour week where I was ON for three days and I was exhausted at the end.

I dragged myself to The Knitter's Frolic and I'm glad I did. Being around knitters and the yarn was restorative. I got to see my knitting peeps and get inspired with new yarn and projects.

I'm sorry if I didn't chat very much when I saw you. I was seriously done with being social. I actually used up all my extroverted self (and if you know me, you'll find that staggering). We should get together and knit some time and I'll make it up to you.

My favourite purchase was a Tornadoz gradient box from Indigodragonfly.

The colours glow. I started an easy cowl and am in the second colour already. I needed a new project to celebrate Spring and getting through my challenge. (It doesn't glow in the dark though--trust me it's beautiful.)

 



Slow Scarfing

I'm a product knitter. I like having finished pieces. I like blocking and seaming and weaving in ends because they represent getting something done, and the opportunity to start another new project.

But some knits start out great and then lose their appeal. The pattern is too complicated for my current headspace or I like the finished project but not the knitting itself. Or the yarn/needle combination isn't right. Or I start a heavy mohair thing in April and can't stand to touch it when the weather warms up (I could probably start a mohair King sized blanket this year because it's never going to get warm).

The beautiful Kirkingwood Paisley shawl I'm working on is one of those slow projects. I feel in love with it the moment I saw it (Fiona was knitting it on my couch the first time we met in person*) and bought the pattern and Indigodragonfly yarn as soon as it was available at the 2014 Knitter's Frolic.

I realize that it's almost been a year since I started the scarf and I'm wanting it's beautiful red silkiness around my neck and I'm only 41 rows into a 70 row pattern. This is slow scarfing. I'm making the biggest size and it takes almost an hour to knit a row.

It's not really a pick up, knit a bit and go stir the soup kind of knit. That's okay, there should be long, slow, meticulous patterns. They're good for the brain and they make very pretty things. Just look at how some cables and lace make paisleys--genius.

To get this done, I'm following some advice I read from some wise knitter: spend 10 minutes a day on the stalled projects to move them along. I don't get to this one all the time, but much like the trick I play on myself to run when I don't want to, just picking up and committing to only a short time with this knit is resulting in some beautiful and enjoyable knitting.

Will I have it done by this year's Frolic? Probably not, but will it sit in the basket for years? Nope. Only 30 rows before the garter stitch. I freakin love garter stitch...


*I don't randomly invite fabulous knitting designers to my house--we have mutual friends who were visiting and we all like good yarn and good beers. Though on reflection, I should invite more people like Fiona over because good things happen.