Monday, April 14, 2014

Inspiration Mondays: I Heard a Scarf

I stumbled across this video today. It's one of Vodafone's Firsts, a series of videos in which they help people to do things for the first time. I encourage you to watch it all the way through. It is about a man who is colourblind, but has a special antennae that converts the wavelength of different colours into sounds.

He HEARS colour.

And not only does he hear colour: he composes with it. And he found a way to share that experience with other people. And he put together a concert to share how he perceives the world. I found it very moving. After the concert is finished, he says through his own tears, "It feels like we're sharing the same world."

There was an app developed for him. It's called Eyeborg (currently only available on Android). I downloaded it, and started playing with it. I aimed my phone's camera at different colours in the room, and it played back different sounds for each colour. It was fascinating. I swivelled around, pointing at different things, figuring out how to capture a "score." And then, my eyes lit upon this:

It's a scarf. It belonged to one of my best friends, Sarah. She passed away not long ago, and her sister gave it to me at her memorial. Sarah was wearing it in a photo we took together shortly before her death.

So, I started aiming my phone towards it, listening to each tone. The app is quite sensitive: it will detect even the smallest change in light, so you get half-tones, sweeping up and down like a guitar string being tuned up and down. I kept playing with it, learning each colour's sound, humming along as I learned...

Eventually, I played a song. I can hear it still.

The unfortunate thing is that the app doesn't record your music. Maybe someday it will. For now, I am grateful for it, because now, when I look at this scarf draped over my bookshelf, I hear a song, short and wistful.

And it belongs to Sarah.

Today, I am inspired by people who find new ways to look at the world, and who work hard to share it with other people. I am amazed by this new way of perceiving things. And this app might seem like a silly little toy, but it makes me hungry for more colours, and makes me want to know what they sound like: I want to experience each tone, hue and shade with my eyes and my ears. And I wonder what new things I can create with this.

See/hear you later.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Climbing Out of the Thorns

It is rare that one of my projects meets a fury so strong that it must be fished out of the garbage bin after I've calmed down. Kids, this one is it. What. A. Mess.

That's what my Irish crochet scarf from my Japanese crochet book looked like earlier this week. Good grief, I hated it. Never have so many cookies have been consumed during a yarn tantrum like this one.

It's my own fault, really. I went ahead an disobeyed CLEAR INSTRUCTIONS about how many rows to work and what kind of yarn to use. This is my inner headstrong child coming out.
Instructions: Work 50 rows on each side of the scarf. 
Me: Only 50? Nah, I've got so much yarn. I'll just work more and figure out how much I need for the other stuff.
And OF COURSE I ran out of yarn. And OF COURSE I had no idea how much I would need for the rest of the project, because I've NEVER DONE a project like this before. People like me should be put in timeout for not listening. Know-it-all. Show-off. Meh meh meh...

So, I unpicked a bunch of my sewn in ends, ripped back, put things back together, and after I connected the motifs for one side of the scarf, I stopped. I looked down at the myriad of ends I had to sew in, knowing I had to do it again for the other side of the scarf, and... well, I just couldn't face it.

Plot change! I decided I was no longer making a scarf, and made a circular cowl instead. Behold: The Irish Rose Cowl.

I must say that this wasn't really any easier in the end. I ditched the instructions for connecting the motifs to the scarf, because it just wasn't working out. I also had to figure out how to connect one side to the other on my own. It was a lot of work, a lot of scowling and ripping back, but I had committed to the change, and darn it all, I was going to do it. And I was pretty sure I was going to hate the end result, but I didn't want to quit.

But you know what? I love it. 

I loved it enough to fix my hair for the second photo:

I even wore it out to dinner and a show last night. And I'm sure I'll wear it again, many times.

But it's just as they say: Every rose has its thorn. And man, did I feel them during this project. I think I might sit back and do some easy knitting for a couple of days. Never before did the idea of intarsia knitting feel so relaxing...

Monday, April 7, 2014

Mondays: Staying Soft

Being tender and open is beautiful. As a woman, I feel continually shhh’ed. Too sensitive. Too mushy. Too wishy washy. Blah blah. Don’t let someone steal your tenderness. Don’t allow the coldness and fear of others to tarnish your perfectly vulnerable beating heart. Nothing is more powerful than allowing yourself to truly be affected by things. Whether it’s a song, a stranger, a mountain, a rain drop, a tea kettle, an article, a sentence, a footstep, feel it all – look around you. All of this is for you. Take it and have gratitude. Give it and feel love. — Zooey Deschanel
One of the strongest memories I have about school is a comment on my report card that said, "Adriene is a moody and sensitive child." I remember many people telling me and my parents that I was sensitive, that I cried too easily. I remember my third grade teacher telling me with great exasperation that I couldn't cry "over every little thing."

I remember biting my lip hard, year after year, learning to keep quiet when my feelings overflowed, when people said hurtful things, or even when I was moved by beauty. I held on tightly to things that moved me, that allowed me to feel emotions as fully as I wanted to in a socially acceptable way: stories, pictures, movies... I treasured them quietly. I put on as tough of an exterior as I could muster, and I learned to stand up and say my piece when I needed to. I was never bullied, nor do I allow myself to be bullied, but when my soft underbelly gets prodded, the experience preys on me for a long time afterward.

Just the other day, I sat at home and wished with all my might that I could be a tougher person, someone who wasn't affected by things so easily, who could go about life like so many other people do, uncaring of what other people's feelings or reactions, just getting on with life. It seems so easy for them, trampling through life, enjoying themselves, laughing at the what is lesser and weaker than them.

But I read the quote above, and it got me thinking.

Today, I am inspired by my sensitivity: it allows me to feel the undertones of a conversation that most people miss, and it allows me to know who needs comforting the most. It allows me to watch the world carefully, so I can share its stories with genuine, accurate words. It tells me how to speak to person in the way they need to hear things, and that's a pretty good thing to be able to do. Maybe that's why I'm so comfortable with my fibre crafts - I'm at home in the softness.

I am seeking out more like me. I've found a few, and I like being around them. It's a safe, gentle, happy place.

I won't wish to be like the others anymore.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Like a Narcoleptic Goat

These days, I'm like a narcoleptic goat: up and about, springing around the house, getting into a bunch of things, and even moaning and baa'ing a bit before I crash suddenly on the couch to sleep an hour or two. It's disconcerting, though possibly a relief to the hubby and to Rascal, who've had to put up with me in the house these past few weeks. "Thank goodness, she's asleep," they must say as I lie gap-mouthed and drooling on the cushions.

As my recovery days wear on, I'm finding myself less like the goat and more like a normal person who can get up and do things, like go outside and talk to people. I've been to the bank, visited my workmates, and even fiddled a little bit in the garden. I'm optimistic that my normal energy levels will return in time. It's only been a few weeks with just one kidney, after all.

With the sudden burst of energy yesterday, I determined that I would go ahead and make a Strawberry Coffee Cake with a recipe by Joy the Baker. This recipe had been sitting in my Pinterest board for a while, but it was only while I was assembling the ingredients that I realized that this cake has no coffee in it. This puzzled me. All of the coffee cakes I've made or eaten in the past had coffee in it. In fact, I stood for a good ten minutes in my kitchen reading the recipe over and over, trying to see if I was missing something obvious. No coffee. Well, ok. I guess I had to resign myself to a plain ol' soft, moist and fluffy cake with a strawberry filling and streusel on top. Torture, I know.

This photo is a bit over-exposed, so you can't really see the layer of strawberries in there, but they're in there, baby. I substituted the sour cream for plain yogurt, because 1) sour cream is the sort of thing I buy and only use a little bit of, and then promptly forget about until months later when I find several blue organisms growing in it in the fridge, and 2) plain yogurt is something I always have on hand. I also decreased the amount of sugar by 1/3 of a cup, both for the virtue of health and because I simply ran out. And I ate the first slice with a cup of tea, not coffee. I'm thinking this cake needs re-naming, but soon, it'll just be called "gone."

I've also been out-and-about in my little town. I visited my friend's vintage shop, which always means I discover a few bits and pieces to make my day. I found a sweet little biscuit/cookie cutter, which will be perfect for when I make more Welsh Cakes down the line. The last time I made them, I used a glass to cut them out. I'm thinking this will be a smidge better, and the colour of the handle makes me smile:

I also brought home this bottle opener that has a cork handle. Sweet and useful.

It was only when I was taking photos of it this afternoon that I realized there are words carved into it. They're hard to see here, but they say something like "Carlos San Lucas." Carlos, I have your bottle opener. Bring a bottle of wine and we'll chat, ok?

I also found this tiny little ceramic/porcelain ladle. I was attracted by the blue on the cup:

And the little details on the handle:

And the sweet little painting of fruit on the inside:

And when I turned it over, I found this:

Which reminded me of this cup, which lives on one of my bookcases at home:

That also has this underneath:

Family reunions are beautiful:

And lastly, I brought these little nail scissors home as well. I've been wanting a little pair of scissors for my yarn and sewing kit. I actually came back two days later for it, because I wasn't sure I'd be able to manage having a pair of scissors with such pointy tips. My hazard assessment of them told me that the potential for injury was great, until I stopped in at an embroidery shop in the city and they sold me a little stopper made just for this purpose. Genius invention, and only fifty cents. I cut it down to size, and it's perfect:

I cleaned the scissors up with a bit of Silvo, and then buffed them with a silly little nail buffer I bought on a whim from the drugstore last summer. I used the heart-shaped one to get into all the little nooks and crannies. I put an unused one above to show how much tarnish I managed to take off. Nice, huh?

So, four weeks after surgery, I putter on. I'm thinking I might go to the local pool and try out a few different muscles next week, we'll see. I'm going back to work soon, so it's important for me to try to do a little bit more every day. I can't be the narcoleptic goat forever, after all. It's far too exhausting for some of us around here:

Monday, March 31, 2014

Inspiration Mondays: Weary Realizations

You may not be a Picasso or Mozart but you don’t have to be. Just create to create. Create to remind yourself you’re still alive. Make stuff to inspire others to make something too. Create to learn a bit more about yourself. --Frederick Terral
I've had a couple of tired days. The reality of giving someone one of your kidneys is that you are left with one less organ that did stuff for you. And the reality of recovering from donating a kidney is that you have days when you feel almost normal, and days when you don't. Luckily, the normal days far outnumber the not-so-normal days, but whatever day it is, you have to walk through it.

This weariness is different from any "tired" I've felt before. It comes on suddenly, and is so heavy that I can't do anything but sleep, and then get up, and then sleep some more. I can only imagine what it must be like to have chronic fatigue. For someone who is used to being active, it can be frustrating.

I found myself wanting to feel sorry for myself, but really, nobody wants to be around a grumpy so-and-so. I have been finding tremendous comfort and joy in my projects. I am grateful for the ability to create, because being able to bring beauty into the world is a wonderful thing. It reminds me that I am alive, and that, even though things aren't exactly "normal" right now, there's a lot I can do. And so, when I've been too tired to get up and make something, I sit down and make something. And when I can't do that, I look online for new ideas. And when I can't do that, I read pattern books and magazines for inspiration. And when I can't do that, I sketch cables, lace patterns, sweater shapes. And, even when that is hard, I lie down and fall asleep, dreaming of my projects...

Below is the result of these musings: a collection of materials I am going to use to make some embroidered fingerless mitts. I'm not sure exactly what they'll look like, just that I know they will be beautiful.

Today, I am inspired by all of the colours and textures that surround me that I normally take for granted. Being forced to stop and look has been a good thing for me. I hope I never take them for granted again.

Saturday, March 29, 2014


During my history of yarncraft, I have prided myself on being able to finish stuff within a reasonable amount of time. Project started, then project finished. I don't like loose ends. I lie awake at night trying to work out fit issues, colour combinations, yardage calculations. "I bet I could make that," I say. And I want to do it now. Today, not tomorrow, not next month.

Darn it all, life throws a lot of obstacles in the way. Work, family, and, for the first time, surgery, have classified my most recent project as "epic." December to March. That's a long time for me. And it bugged me.

What didn't help was that I had absolutely no idea what the heck I was doing. I started with a barely legible chart from a Russian site and ended up with pieces that looked like this:

And I fought with my yarn the whole way through. The yarn itself was a dream: two shawl skeins I bought from my friend's Etsy shop, Dragonfly Dyewerx. But my ballwinder and swift were not cooperating while I was winding it, and so I ended up with these stupid long loops in the middle of my yarn cakes. They weren't quite "yarn barfs," where the yarn just pops out from the inside in a tangled mess. I'd call this "yarn spittle."

But, in the end, I did my normal thing: winging it. A lot of "Oh whatever, let's try this thing and see what happens." And winged it... or wunged it, as I like to say. Wunged seems like the proper past tense of winging it...

I added a left shoulder, because the toga look doesn't quite do it for me. And then I made sleeves. The stitch pattern kind of swirled around like a barber's pole up my arm, so I'm hoping it doesn't look too awkward. Oddly, one sleeve seems longer than the other, but I think that might be because I made one before I had surgery and one afterwards. Heh, talk about different tensions...

One of the balls had more black in it, so I used one for the left side and one for the right. And, since it's basically made of a bunch of triangles, I ended up with an asymmetrical hem, which is cool, but a real pain in the butt to photograph, since I needed to fiddle with a camisole that would both show the stitch pattern and look decent under the angled hem at the same time.

To make sure it was wide enough, I added side panels. This one looks like it's pulling at the bust, but I think that's just because of my awkward pose.

In the end, I was quite pleased. It was a satisfying experiment, which taught me that I can make a crochet top out of fingering weight yarn that I can actually wear. And, despite all the ripped out stitches, reworking piece after piece over and over again, it worked.

I'm off to figure out something for dinner. I've wunged more than one dinner in my time. It's not a bad way to live, after all.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Once in a Minute, Twice in a Moment

I appear in the Dome of Rome,
once in a minute, twice in a moment,
but never in a second. -- Unknown
That quote above is a riddle my dad told me as a kid. See if you can figure it out. I'll give you a hint: it doesn't have anything to do with time.


Time. I've got it. Time to heal, time to rest, and time to... well, do stuff. And yet... and yet...

I can't seem to get anything finished.

Perhaps it's because I've broken my normal monogamous-project rule. Having two going on at once feels like being pulled in two directions: wool project on one side, cotton project on the other. Plants vs. sheep. Epic.

Perhaps what is exacerbating the problem is that I am constantly distracted by all the stuff that I've been "saving for later." Like this blog, for example. I sat up until midnight last night fiddling with the colours and changing the font on the header. I went to bed feeling pretty sure I didn't like it, and I lay in bed plotting how I was going to take a bunch of new photos for the header image, trying to figure out angles, lighting, even what I was going to wear.

When I awoke this morning, I looked at the blog and decided it was ok. I think I like it... for now... I mean, I've got time, after all.

In the meantime, I'm slogging away at the cover project of my Japanese Crochet Book. It's been a good way for me to learn how to do padded motifs. Motifs are the fancy little pieces that make up crochet projects. Padded motifs have extra thread at the core to make them thicker and more robust. I finished the motifs for this project earlier this week.

After joining the motifs together, I decided to block them a bit. My tension is a little screwy, since I've never done this kind of crochet before, some of the edges were curling with all the extra nervous energy in each stitch. My hook, it is powerful...

And yeah, I bet you can totally see where I mixed up the placement of two of those flowers. Double-lobed flower were single lobed flower should be, as obvious as neon legwarmers on an elephant... to me, anyway. I shan't dwell on it. Those babies are joined, and, extra time or not, I'm not redoing them!

So, I'm now working on the main body of the scarf. The picot stitch of this scarf is actually what made me want to buy the book: such a nice stitch. It's interesting to see it in a thicker yarn, even if it seems like it's taking FOREVER:

But maybe it's taking FOREVER because, as I said earlier, I am easily distracted these days. I stopped this afternoon to make a couple of cakes, because... well, why not? I've got time.

And yes, we sampled them, as evidenced by the uneven edges. The cake on the left is a Lemon Poppy Seed Cake from AllRecipes, and the one on the right is Smitten Kitchen's Everyday Chocolate Cake, which is a perfect name for a cake if I ever saw one:

So, tonight, I'll be working on my evening project: an experiment with some of my hand dyed sock yarn. This is supposed to be a top. I'm really not sure I've got the stitch count right. It could be too big, too wide, too short. It might have long sleeves. I might make it with a loose fit. I'm not sure how it'll go, but we'll see. If you've got time, you can come back and see how it turns out...

I'll check my calendar and see if I can meet you then. I'll get back to you, ok? Oh, and if you figured out the riddle, let me know!