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.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Grandma's Bag

A couple weeks ago, I was feeling plagued by projects I had told myself I wanted to do but had never done. Let's pause a moment and recognize what a gift it is that I have a life that can be plagued by my hobbies instead of real problems.


So, I emailed some smart friends about it. Lynn asked if maybe I was just tired of making things and needed a break. I sat with that for awhile and decided that I just hadn't been in the mood to do new things. A tenth pair of diagonal rib socks? Yes. A project that I couldn't do while zoned out on the couch? No.

Mysteriously, that was what it took to get unstuck. 

I don't remember my grandma knitting, but she did it a lot before she had Parkinson's. Parkinson's is terrible. 

Grandma's old knitting bag had sat in a garage for years. It was badly, badly torn and frayed, held together in places with safety pins, was disgustingly dirty, and contained some dubious black things that made me shudder. I cut the material off the wooden frame and washed it. It was worth the risk of it falling completely apart in the wash. There was no way I was using it for a template as it was.

Once clean, it sat and stared at me judgmentally for months.

I was off yesterday, and I spent it at home working on one of the bag. It started with a list and some math.

I had already purchased and washed the material I wanted to use for the project, a canvas for the outside and a satin for the inside. In addition to the bottom of the bag, there's another flap that goes under the wooden frame to hold it in place. Since that and the long seams on both sides that go over the handles had to be done with the frame in place, there was a lot of handsewing. 

I tried to be Zen about it. I only sort of succeeded.

I measured my notion bag and made a pocket for it in the lining. It's possible that pocket is wrong side out, but I'm sticking to the story that it depends on your perspective. My perspective says it's fine.

Seven hours, a bobbin refill, a bent sewing machine needle, far more handsewing than I anticipated, only one shouted outburst of, "FOR FUCK'S SAKE," and it was finished.

I learned some things, certainly. I would have done the lining differently if I had it to do over, but thank God I don't have to do it over. No 4-H judges will ever look at it, and it doesn't matter that there are some wonky areas. I'm pleased with it, and I'm thrilled to be able to use something that was grandma's for a hobby we share.

Last night I loaded it with a mostly finished hat that just needs a pompom, a matching, long, worsted weight cowl in progress and the 6 balls of yarn the cowl requires. It all fit, which makes me think this might be related to Mary Poppins' carpet bag. 

Thanks, Grandma. I'll think of you whenever I use it, which will be a lot.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017


Some yarn is harder to work with than others. Most of the time, I can figure that out by looking at it and avoid it. Sometimes I can't.

Diagonal Rib Socks (mine ravelled here)
knit in Regia Hand-Dye Effect in 06552

This yarn is splitty, and got VERY thin in sections. I am not a fan, and I'm not sure how they'll wear. The socks look pretty, and the pattern, as always, is great. (I think this is my 10th pair of this pattern. Ann Budd knows what she is doing. I knit mine slightly differently than the pattern, but just because I'm odd and not because there's anything wrong with the pattern.) I'm just grateful to be finished and moving to a yarn that isn't so difficult to work with.

And I'm praying I didn't buy another ball of this, but I'm too scared to check the stash to find out for sure.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

All the Loopiness

Yesterday I took some pictures of the Loop. It's a lovely bit of knitting.

Loop (mine ravelled here),
knit in Madelinetosh 80/10/10 Fingering in Spectrum 

The Spectrum colorway is my very favorite. Each stitch has the possibility of an unexpected pop of color, but all the colors look lovely together and not at all like clown barf.

The edge is garter stitch.

Then an i-cord bindoff that is a Zen meditation. Breathe. Accept what you are doing. (Abandon hope of ever finishing, but that's where my Zen broke down.) It's beautiful when it's done.

I enjoyed myself so much that I knit another.

Knit in a mysterious sparkly gray from the stash
and Knitpicks Chroma Fingering in the Roller Skate colorway
(ravelled here)

I love this one just as much as the first one. I was worried about how the long gradient of Chroma would behave, but it's lovely. Chroma is unspun enough that I think this pattern is a great use for it. It won't get a lot of hard wear wrapped around my friend in a fetching manner.

Pretty, right?

For both of them, I did a modified garter stitch tab as suggested by a genius on Ravelry and also did a yo between the first two and last two sts on each right side row that I then dropped off on the wrong side. This kept the edge from being too tight. I'd love to take credit for both those ideas, but the truth is that I got both ideas from the Ravelry projects for this pattern.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

No Words

Well, I don't really know what to say.

I haven't been posting because it feels like shouting into the void. The political shambles of our country is immense and gut-wrenching and faith-shaking, and it somehow seems both imperative and disrespectful to talk about knitting when action after action being taken by the President and Congress takes us farther from respect, compassion, and justice and closer to intolerance, isolationism, and whatever the hell you call it when policies are made to benefit those who need it the least.

I am knitting. I am also listening to the news except when it becomes so overwhelming that I can't.

I'm reading fluffy fiction. I am also regularly donating to a local charity that works to relocate refugees in the area (here if you're interested).

I am working out, trying to take care of my body both for my physical health and also because working out is good for my emotional health. My trainer, by the way, is an immigrant married to an American. They are afraid to leave the country on vacation for fear he won't be allowed back in.


I think, in the face of our reality, of course I don't know what to say. There aren't adequate words, but we have to keep speaking anyway.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Loop, Backward and Forward

I was surfing Pinterest, like you do, when I fell upon a gorgeous photo of Loop by Casapinka. I was discussing it in depth via Messenger with a friend, like you do, when she casually told me she bought me the pattern and it was waiting in my library.

No, you can't have her. She's mine. 

I was not deeply committed to the laceweight sweater I'd just started (because, duh, laceweight), so I decided to cast on.

And then found myself completely flummoxed by choices.

After dithering longer than I care to admit, I chose Madelinetosh in Spectrum, my very favorite colorway in the entire universe, paired with Knitpicks Hawthorne Kettle Dyed in Blackbird. I began.

And promptly screwed up. Those two colorwork rows should be the same. The pattern clearly states that you hold the yarn in the back when you slip stitches. As you're working a wrong side row, the back is the front of the work. I was thinking about the wrong side as being the back, held the yarn in the wrong place, and, well, crap. I can't blame that on anyone but myself. Rip.

That fixed, I trundled ahead. I loved Spectrum. 

I did not love the pooling in the black.

In a move I'm incredibly proud of, I stopped and considered. I didn't like the pooling. Could I learn to like it? It probably needs better light. I went to bed.

The next day I took it to work, spread it on my desk, and glanced at it from time to time.


Yep, still pooling.

Sigh. Still pooling.

Besides the fact that my time is precious, because we all know I've knitted something I hated despite the truth to that, this colorway is too precious to use it in a project that screams, "I'M POOLING!" at me every time I see it. Rip.

I went back to the stash. One of the grays I had initially rejected was Good for Ewe's Sultry Steps. It's a great gray*, but it was fuzzy and monochrome and I wasn't sure I'd like it in this project.

I was wrong.

Loop (mine ravelled here),
knit in Good for You Sultry Steps in 98 Pewter 
and Madelinetosh 80/10/10 Fingering in Spectrum

Onward, again.

*For me, a great gray doesn't have brown undertones. Brown undertones make me sad.