Sunday, September 14, 2014

Racing the Dark

For the first time in a while, my eyes are set on a knitting goal. I want to knit this: Mehndi, by Susan Pandorf. I've wanted to make it for a long time now.

And I want to knit it with this:

And the problem is: winter is coming. And that means it's going to get dark soon.

Black yarn + lack of light = what the heck am I thinking?

My monogamous knitting habits are holding me back here. I am determined to finish my current project before I move on. I was hoping it would be finished by now, but let's face it: 900ish yards of laceweight yarn is no quick project, even if I am using a crochet pattern. I'm now at the point that I dread whenever I make a crescent-shaped shawl: the omg-this-row-is-taking-forever point. It is as geometry dictates: the longer the radius, the longer the circumference. Circumference = pi times diameter.

Funny how math class comes back to you sometimes.

I feel kinda bad rushing to the end of my current project, but I am looking forward to seeing it finished. I keep getting glimpses of what it will look like when it is blocked when I hold it up and let the weight of the bamboo yarn pull it down. It's pretty handy to be able to get a blocking preview.

And Cuddle McCuddleson ain't helping the cause here. He's insisting I sit here instead of getting up to find my project:

Anyway, my sudden desire to make this was brought about by the purchase of a dress a couple of weeks ago. It's red, and it's lovely and I want to wear it for Christmas, but it has cap sleeves and I know that I will feel both exposed and cold without some kind of cover. It's September now. I figure that, given my current project-finishing rate, it is probable that I will have it ready by then.

If I don't go blind knitting it, that is.

Right, better shut up and get working. As soon as I can get up here...

Monday, September 8, 2014

Inspiration Mondays: From Sarah

You don't believe that you will learn from losing someone. It turns out that, with time, you do.

My friend, Sarah, is gone. I'm remembering her today. And I'm thinking about what I've learned since she's been gone.
  • Facing the darkness is the hardest thing anyone can do, ever. 
  • Being alive means that you have to face this darkness daily, even if it feels like it's going to overwhelm you.
  • No matter how alone you feel, you must remember you are not.
  • Being kind to yourself is important - more important than being kind to others. You can't truly be kind to others unless you are kind - and compassionate - to yourself.
  • You should believe it when people say they love you. People don't lie about stuff like that - you are worthy of it, whether or not you believe it at the time.
I miss you, Sarah. I'm glad I was lucky enough to share time with you.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Coverage Knitting

This blogpost is half about my own body hangups and half about knitting. Fair warning.

I have this thing about my arms. I hate them. Even after weight loss and lots of training, having bare arms makes me very uncomfortable.

Last year, I bought this dress. I wore it out for dinner, and I like it... except I also kind of hate it. I look pretty happy here, but I in reality, I am really self-conscious about my arms. In fact, I had three other photos of me in this dress that I took especially for this post that I rejected because they make me cringe. I know: I should get over it. I'm working on it - lots of self-help books and stuff. Really.

In the meantime, it's a good thing I knit, because it gives me extra opportunities to find ways to hide them. And this brings us to my latest finished project:

I knit this shawl from Wisp, a free pattern from Knitty. It's knit out of some fingering weight yarn, which makes it less-than-wispy, but I've been quite pleased with the result. It's done wonders with this handpainted yarn, which was so striking in the skein, but as is the case with all striking yarns, super difficult to find a pattern it would work with.

I love how the colours are zig-zagging their way through the shawl without detracting from the mesh of the pattern. Every time I look at it, I have to look twice at it, which is not a bad thing in this case. If anything, it's one of the more interesting things I've ever knit.

And frankly, it makes me feel like wearing this dress just a little more often, because not only am I self-conscious about my arms, but I am also one of these people who is always cold. I need coverage, even in the summer. I whine about air conditioning. Yeah, I'm one of those people.

You should hear me in the supermarket. I can't even stay long enough in the freezer section to choose a decent roast. The order by which we tackle the weekly shop is a long-standing argument in our house, because I think we spend far too long in the cold areas. But I digress...

I'm a lot happier with the result of this project than I imagined I would be. What I thought would be a mindless, keep-my-hands-busy knitting projects turned into a wow-am-I-happy-I-made-that project. Blocking was kind of a pain, and the bind off doesn't quite match the cast on, but whatever. It's cute, it's long enough to wear as a stole, and I like it.

And really, isn't that what knitting is supposed to be about? Coverage and warmth and happiness. I'll take it.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Inspiration Mondays: Being a Strand of Yarn

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
I find being human a struggle. On the one hand, we are born, and we spend the rest of our lives trying to survive. We look out for our best interests, strive to find the best value for money, make sure we stay away from people and things that might drag us down.

And on the other hand, we have feelings. We feel guilt, happiness, fear, anger, and one that is surprisingly hard to cultivate: compassion.

It's hard to cultivate compassion because it requires looking past the things that make us uncomfortable as humans. I means we have to face things that are scarred, broken, and frightening, and to try to see the human on the inside. And it's not just for strangers. It's for our enemies, the people who we want to be around the very least. It's hard for me. I struggle with it daily, not just because I believe it will make me a better person, but because I would want someone to do the same for me.

I really can't remember how I stumbled on it, but I came across this article about a man who gives free haircuts to the homeless on his days off. His name is Mark Bustos, and he runs a hair salon in New York City. He started giving free haircuts in his home country of the Philippines while visiting his family, and decided to carry on doing it back in NYC. So, every Sunday, he goes out looking for people who might appreciate a haircut.

He makes sure he does it out in the open, where people can see what he is doing, not so that they can see him, so that others can find inspiration in the good deed, and be kind to those less unfortunate as well. And when he is finished, he shows them how they look and offers to pay for a meal. One man looked at himself, then looked at Mark and asked, "Do you know anyone that's hiring?"

He posts photos of these haircuts on his Instagram account. Looking through each photo reminded me that every one of those people were just... people. Not numbers, not bums. And that means that they are the same as me.

"Every human life is worth the same," he says.

Mark Bustos on Instatram
From Markbustos on Instagram

Today, I am inspired by people like Mark who remind me that it costs nothing to be kind. Putting away my arrogance and frustration is freeing. Being compassionate with an extra dollar or two for the food bank is little effort for so much gain. I refuse to become hardened in a world that requires me to be tough.

Maybe that's why I love my yarn so much: a strand soft and flexible, strong when pulled, even stronger when developed into fabric, but pleasant all the same. I could be that, too. So there, hard world. So there.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Behind or Ahead

Word has it that it is nearly September. The realization comes with a bit of a shock, but also somewhat of a relief. Life is busy in the summertime, even if Porgy and Bess say the livin' is easy.

So, what of summer projects? Something cotton? Fresh? Cool and easy to wear?

Well... how about wool?

It seems like I've got my seasons all mixed up, because this summer has been all about working on merino and alpaca projects. Mind you, I've been so busy that the projects have been slow-going, but you'd think I'd throw in a bit of something different for a change.

I'm blocking a scarf based on Wisp by Cheryl Niamath from a summer issue of Knitty, which would be a summery project, were it not for the fact that it is knit in merino wool. In my defence, I really wanted to knit something with this yarn, because the colours are so striking. It's a hand dyed skein from a now-defunct indie Etsy store. It was kind of a hit-and-miss project: each time I picked it up to work on it, I had to decide if I still liked it. I think I like it more now that it is blocking. It's starting to show its true self.

And now that that is finished, I decided to pick up a skein of laceweight bamboo yarn to work on, just in time for the fall! Yes, the days are shorter, the nights are getting cooler, and soon, the chill will be in the air. Uh huh, bamboo time. Yup. Ready for next summer, I guess.

I took it with me during a work trip this week. I never thought I'd stuff a ball of yarn and a crochet hook into a hard hat, that's for sure:

The yarn was a gift from my friend, dkzack. She got it during a trip to Olds Fibre Week a couple of years ago, before she realized she didn't really like working with laceweight yarn. It's a pretty hefty skein, probably about 900 yards by my calculations. I decided I didn't want to fight my way through a knitted laceweight project, so after a few trials, I decided on a free crochet pattern from Lion Brand called Tranquil Wrap. It's a pattern I would have never looked twice at before. It was only that I had spotted some of the versions that people had made with light weight yarns that I changed my mind. I tried a few different hook sizes before I decided on a size that felt right (seriously, I don't know how anyone can crochet with laceweight with a hook larger than 4.00mm). It's slow-going, but I think it's still going to eat up the yarn faster than with a knitted project. And I got quite a bit of it done in the airport the other day:

So, wool for summer, bamboo for fall. But you know, maybe I'm not behind on the seasons. I went shopping on the weekend and discovered that black and red are SO IN this fall. So like, maybe I'm just fashion forward. Ahead of the game, that's me. Follow me, pack. I shall bring you to the FUTURE.

Yeah, I know. I'm tired. It's Friday. Gimme a break. Back to the hook.

P.S. Rascal is doing pretty well. He's a bit skinny, but he's more comfortable these days, as you can see:

Monday, August 11, 2014

Inspiration Mondays: Grateful

Rascal is home. The vet said he was good to come home at lunch time, after two nights in the animal hospital being treated for septicemia. His immune system is suppressed as a result of the chemotherapy he is getting on a tumour, so he was extra susceptible to infection. I was so glad to open the door and find him running toward me... and for him to run away when I tried to pick him up!

I'm grateful to have another chance to give him a cuddle. He is actually a lot happier than he's letting on in this photo. Man, I wish he'd be happier for the camera.

Living for the moment...

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Quiet House

I brought Rascal to the vet this morning. I've been anxious about him since yesterday morning. He was fine first thing yesterday, and we went out for a short walk. He came home and settled onto his bed, but after an hour, he woke up coughing and swallowing, as if he had something caught in his throat. He eventually settled down, but by the evening, he wouldn't eat or drink, and was lethargic and glassy-eyed. I brought him outside to go pee before bed, and he walked unsteadily back to the house, wavering back and forth, until I picked him up and carried him in.

I heard him moving around a bit in the middle of the night, so I carried him downstairs to see if he would drink any water. He wasn't very responsive, even after I managed to syringe a little bit into his mouth and made sure he swallowed it. Afterward, I carried him back up to bed, then came back down to the couch and sat down. My stomach was in knots, and my throat was tight. I picked up my knitting and worked through a few rows with the laptop on my lap. I searched through patterns online in between rows, trying to distract myself from the fear and sadness.

He's at the vet now, getting IV fluids to rehydrate him and meds to reduce a high temperature, an x-ray for his laboured breathing, and a blood test to see what the rest of his organs are doing. Today is one of those rare days when I want to do the chores: iron my shirts, wash the floors, do the dusting... anything and everything to keep my mind distracted.

Today, my yarn is not necessarily a comfort. It is an act of motion to keep my mind distracted, to allay my fears just a little bit. I am knitting to slow my breathing, to focus my mind, and to ease the guilt of the thoughts of how much easier life would be without a dog... the places we'd be allowed to stay, the events we'd go to...

But it would be a life without my little teddy bear.

I know he's just a dog, and that life is supposed to end sometime, but I don't care about anyone's philosophies right now. I don't want anyone's platitudes about the rainbow bridge or the end of journeys or any of that. He's my Rascal, and I want him to feel better. That's all.