Monday, October 2, 2017

Sewing 101

A friend and I are taking a six-week beginning sewing class at Crimson Tate. The first week we made a pin cushion (think square bean bag filled with crushed walnut shells). Last week we worked on a fancy pillowcase.

My mother-in-law is a delightful person, plus she provided half the genes for my very favorite person. For these reasons and others, she deserves fancy pillowcases for Christmas. I worked on hers this weekend. 


I wonder how many fancy pillowcases I need to make before it feels less stressful than disarming a bomb.


The answer is more than four.

Tomorrow there's a rumor we're going to work on zippers. Like Little Red Riding Hood, I'm excited and scared.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Stripy, Stripy, Stripy

I don't even quite remember how it happened. I think I saw this cowl somewhere (ravelry? pinterest?) and fell in love. Then Knit Picks was having a sale on some of their Chroma. Then I was talking with a friend and we were discussing possible colorways.

Anyhow, this happened.

Bad Blood Cowl (mine ravelled here),
and Knit Picks Chroma Fingering in Dear Diary

I used just over one skein of the Smoothie Sock and not quite two balls of the Chroma. The pattern suggests just knitting until you run out of the 100 gram skein of each, but I knit a bit more than that to get it the length I wanted.

It's an easy pattern. It starts with a provisional cast on of 107 stitches (which I can do only if I watch this video every single time I need to do the cast on), then has 2 rows of the first color and 2 rows of the second color for 10 repeats, then 3 rows of the first color and 3 rows of the second color for 10 repeats, then 4 rows and so on until you have 8 stripe rows.  Then you graft the two ends together to make a cowl.

If you are ready for this step at your lunch hour and realize you don't have another circular needle, you may be tempted to try various other bits from your knitting bag, such as stitch holders and shawl pins. These will not work. You should then remind yourself that it is July, and you do not need to be in a rush to finish a cowl on your lunch hour. Furthermore, remind yourself that you can't kitchner 107 stitches together in a lunch hour anyway.


I like the cowl a lot. It's long enough to loop twice around my neck.


I have the yarn picked out to make another one for a friend. This time, I'm going to avoid the tedium of progressively wider and wider stripes and start with the 8 stripe sequence and decrease down to 2. I know that it's exactly the same amount of knitting, but I'm betting it won't feel like it. Score one for brain trickery!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Coasters

Remember how I had that list of projects I wanted to do but had never done, like Grandma's knitting bag? Another project on that list was i-cord coasters.

I'd seen an article in Interweave Knits Summer 2015 magazine about a little doohickey that makes i-cord. I've knit my fair share of i-cord, and it's tedious, if by tedious you understand it makes me want to poke my own eyeballs out with a dpn. With the Embellish Knit doohicky, you feed the yarn through the top, do a bit of futzing at the beginning to get it either behind or in front of metal pegs that look like tiny latchhook hooks, weight the bottom of the yarn, turn the handle, and voila! I-cord. 

It takes 3 i-cords roughly 6' tall to make a coaster. Once the i-cords are made, you braid them together tightly, then sew the braid to itself in a spiral shape.


This means we now have another use for scrap sock yarn. Angels are singing, and they are singing about the joys of using up tiny balls of fingering weight yarn. The harmony is glorious.


I've made 6 of these. They tend to pucker, but soaking them and then blocking them under something really heavy makes a big difference. (That also could be solved with more practice. It has something to do with the way I sewed the braid to itself.) I made 2 for me and 4 to give as gifts. I don't have any desire to whip up more at the moment, but it's a nice trick to have for when the scraps begin to get me down.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Before speaking

"Before speaking, recognize what motivates your words." -Lama Surya Das

When I was in college, I worked on a project with another student and one of my Religious Studies professors on faith development. We did in-depth interviews with people to discuss their faith journey. James Fowler's Stages of Faith informed the project, and, honestly, the book was one that helped me accept my own spiritual journey as valid and beautiful even though it differed from what was expected of me by my family.

That's not what I'm thinking about today though.

I'm thinking about one of the meetings we had during that project. The professor said to me, "What do you think, Bonnie? I like the way your mind works." I don't remember what I said, but I know what I wish I would have said.

I wish I would have said, "That's because I only talk when I have something to say." 

I didn't. I felt pressured into speaking before I was ready, wanting to live up to some unexplained and possibly nonexistent expectation of one of my favorite professors. 

The truth is, as a very introverted person, there's a lot of thinking that happens before most of my speech. Many, many, many times I think of the right thing to say--the thing that feels right in my mind--and the conversation has already moved on to something else.  That's frustrating, but I think I'd rather have that than my life filled with inane chatter.

More than one person has suggested I become a counselor, typically after dumping their problems in a verbal avalanche. I think that sometimes people like to confide in me because I listen to them. It's not that I have some sort of powerful insight that puts all their problems in perspective; it's that I am able to be present in their presence and hear what they're saying without saying much at all back. I'm a sounding board, and that allows them to figure things out themselves.

In high school, when I would struggle with homework (usually math), Mom would sometimes tell me to explain it to her. I thought this was stupid. Obviously I couldn't explain it to her. I needed someone to explain it to me. But, often, it worked. In explaining it to someone else, in talking it out, the things I didn't understand became things I did. She wasn't able to help me with calculus, but she helped me with calculus.

I write this as a reminder to myself. It's okay to be quiet. It's best to listen and only speak when I have something to say. Consider my motivation and whether what I say will help, hurt, or just fill the world with distracting noise. Intention.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Grow What I Love

I make promises to myself at the end of every growing season.

Often it's the same promise I made the year before, such as, "I will not neglect to water the garden in July just because I want to sit on the couch in the air conditioning." I have a somewhat shaky relationship with the rain barrel in July, but I reaffirm my promise each year.

Last year, I promised something new: I promised to plant less vegetables and more flowers. Part of me felt that was really irresponsible. I told that part to shove it. Seeds are cheap. I overwinter dahlias in the garage, so those are free after the first year. A lot of my flowers are perennials.

Plus, buying plants is always better than a crack habit, so there.

Flowers bring me joy. Fresh flowers in the house always make me happy, and fresh flowers in the house that I've grown myself make me doubly so. 

Daisies, zinnia, bachelor button, dahlias

We feed birds, which means we also feed chipmunks, squirrels, and rabbits. Some of those little bastards have gotten into the raised beds this year.

Most of my pepper plants have been destroyed. I don't even care all that much.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

One Year

About a year and a half ago, I started seeing a personal trainer for the first time. She was very nice, but it was hard. It was early in the morning in the winter, so I drove there in the dark and the cold in order to feel weak for half an hour. I persisted for a few months, and then my trainer decided to quit training and become a nanny. (Oddly, nannies get more sleep than trainers.)

I didn't want to lose momentum, so I joined the JCC. It's within walking distance to work, so I decided I could work out right before or after work and thus avoid the siren song of the couch.

I talked to a coworker's partner who works at the J to get trainer recommendations. I called them and they promptly set me up with someone else. (The person recommended wasn't available.) I put on my mental armor and made an appointment.

He was physically intimidating. He looked like a stereotypical trainer. That was scary to me. It had been scary to go to the nice, female trainer who understood when I needed to sit down because things were going a little black around the edges of my vision. I wasn't sure I could work with someone who looked... like that.

But he was kind and encouraging at that first meeting, and as we worked together he continued to be. He is very careful of my back. I have scoliosis, so strengthening my core to avoid back injury is one of my primary goals.

We started out meeting twice a week, but that's not financially feasible for me long term. Now we meet once a week and he writes workouts for me two other times a week. He emails when I don't show on a day he expects to see me in the gym, and that means I rarely skip. I've found that I do really well with that accountability, and I'm grateful for it.

Tomorrow will mark one year since our first appointment. I gave him a thank you card this morning.

He made me do alternating walk up planks and deep lunges. I choose to believe that's his way of saying, "You're welcome."

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

HANDSOME: Yeah, You Are

Exciting news! Pamela Wynne's latest genius project, HANDSOME, is now available! As Pamela says, "Handsome: Man Sweaters for Every Body is an e-book collection of six menswear sweater patterns designed to fit every size, shape, and gender of adult human."

She's not screwing around. I did one of the test knits for this, and there are options. The specific sweater I knit has narrow/average shoulder option, A-line shaping option, and custom-length sleeves with the cute thumb hole. There are also custom calculators so you can make sure you knit yourself a sweater that actually fits well.* She wrote these patterns using real people for measurements, and the lucky devils who modeled are now the owners of sweaters knit specifically for their body.


I knit the pieces for the blue Kale pictured above, and Pamela did the finishing. That fabric was glorious, and it fits the model beautifully. I would wear one of those sweaters in a heartbeat.

Check out the lookbook here. She's running KALs for each sweater and has a Ravelry group for the patterns.

These aren't just for men. Men's knitwear is an underserved market certainly, but these sweaters are good shapes, well-designed, and easily customized so they can fit anyone. We all got lucky here.

I'm thinking gray, but I always think gray.... Wouldn't a gray Kale be lovely? In my head, I'm already curled up with a book in my new sweater.

*I'm going to work hard at not thinking about the sweaters I knit that I don't wear because I don't like how they fit. Spilled milk and all that.