Sunday, May 1, 2016

Knitting Because I Have the Yarn

A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song. -- Chinese proverb
I woke up yesterday morning to the sound of birdsong outside my window. It was early: about 5:00am, which is the usual time I wake up during the work week. I yawned and settled myself back down to rest some more, listening to the birds. Out of nowhere, I thought, "I wonder who decides which bird is going to sing first? Is there a 'morning bird' that springs off his perch and bursts into song and annoys the other birds? Or do they take turns? And if they take turns, how does that bird wake himself up? If he's late, are the rest of the birds thrown off?"

Yes: Saturday morning thoughts by Adriene. Welcome to my head.

I'm feeling a bit more like myself these days. My headcold has been reduced to a niggling cough that flares up from time to time. I'm slowly but surely finding my routine again, but man, is it hard to get back to the gym after being off for nearly two weeks. It's like I'm carving out two new sets of lungs from a block of wood in my chest. It's getting easier, but I'm also trying to be patient with myself... there's no point pushing myself so hard that I catch another bug.

My progress has been stalled by a bout of tendonitis in my right foot, which I first had last year when I was training for my half marathon. It irked me that it has flared up again, but it dawned on me the other day that I'm not training for anything right now, and so I've got all the time in the world to let it heal. And it occurred to me that it's been a long time since I've exercised without a race in mind. It feels good to work out for the sake of staying fit... to be outside on the trail for the sake of enjoying the trail...

... like a bird that sings because it has a song.

I'm finally getting the chance to take photos of my 2Hundert shawl. I pulled it off the blocking boards last Sunday evening, and I've been admiring it ever since:



I'm very, very pleased with how the cast off turned out. I really wanted to block a single point into the edge of each cable. I changed the purl stitches in the last chart of the pattern to knit stitches, and I placed the beads along that column of stitches in an attempt to create a bit of weight for the points to last:


And I'm particularly pleased with the size of the final product, even if I didn't manage to use up all of the yarn.





This week, I messed around with another little project. I've been thinking of something to make and sell as a fundraiser for the Big Bike Event for the Heart and Stroke Foundation that I'm taking part in at the end of May. I thought, "I bet it would be cute if I could make a bunch of little stuffed hearts with faces on them?"

The result was underwhelming, and it took way too long to make them a worthwhile endeavour. I need something that I can crank out a bunch of if I'm going to make this idea work. Good thing I have a back up fundraising idea on the go right now. Back to the drawing board for this one:


Today, I'm nursing my sore foot after a gentle workout at the gym this morning. I made myself a nice little lunch of medium-boiled eggs on an English muffin, with a little bit of Wensleydale cheese, some freshly chopping parsley from my CSA box, and some grape tomatoes. I even have the obligatory hipster Mason jar drink (a tincture made of dandelion tea, cranberry juice, lemon juice, and lots of water):


And, while I'm trying to figure out another fundraising idea, I've started working on a new, lacy summer top out of some cotton that I've had for a while now. I got it so long ago that I nearly forgot I had it. I got it back when I had another cold a couple of years ago. Digging it out now just seems appropriate. I have about eleven 50g balls of it, so I think I have enough. I have a feeling it's going to be a heck of a knit, because:

  1. I didn't knit a gauge swatch. I hate swatching over a lace, and this pattern doesn't have a chart. I'm just going to wing it.
  2. I've had this yarn so long that it's discontinued. I've got to get it right because I won't be able to get another ball. Yes, Adriene loves her discontinued yarns.


I'm not all that worried about it. I mean, what's the point? I've been down this might-run-out-of-yarn road before, and so far, I haven't died from it. I may as well knit it for the challenge of making it work.

I can be a knitter that knits because I have the yarn. Heh, how about that?

Happy weekend!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Unplugged, Yet Recharged

Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes... including you. -- Anne Lamont
There's really only one way to sum up what I've been up to since my last post:


That was the little sign I put on my door at work early last week. I caught a head cold that I'm pretty sure nobody wanted me to share, but I wasn't feeling sick enough to stay home, thus the Post-it warning. It was a pretty good idea, actually: I had the quietest day at work I'd had for weeks. Part of me thinks I might just stick it on there whenever I want a bit of piece and quiet...

... except I'm sure someone would either figure it out or send me into quarantine.

Catching this cold made me really slow down and take a much-needed look at how things were going, how much rest I needed, and how I was dealing with things that were happening in my life. The loudest message I got out of this was that I needed to be kinder to myself. By that, I mean: not just giving myself little treats while I was feeling sorry for myself (mmm, Nutella), but by really giving myself the time to heal, and compassion to not push myself so hard, and the patience to know that this wasn't going to last forever.

That meant that I didn't do much of anything except rest, eat, sleep, eat some more... I did not knit and I did not write. I barely went for walks. I made good friends with the couch and a book, of which I only read a few pages before I put it down to sleep.

On the bright side, I'm grateful that the days are brighter and that I'm waiting up to daylight these days, even if I am still a bit tired. My CSA box is proof of the bright and sunny weather:


I could not get over the beauty of these radishes. It seemed almost a shame to eat them, but they were so good for my healing body:


I had no qualms about eating that rhubarb. I made stewed rhubarb for the first time with them, and I'm almost sorry I did, because it was SO GOOD that it almost didn't make it into the crumble I made with it later:


I wasn't all that interested in working on my 2Hundert shawl. It was partly due to my low energy (as my friend, dkzack says: friends don't let sick friends knit), and partly because I really didn't know how I was going to finish it off. I had an image in my head about how I wanted it to look, but I wasn't all that confident my addled brain could figure out how to do it.

However, I was quite pleased when I figured out that I could put my little vintage Villeroy and Boch creamer to use. It made a perfect little container to hold the beads I was using, and the spout made an excellent rest for my steel crochet hook. That, in and of itself, made me feel better:



After a few days of knitting a stitch here and there in between naps, I finally did make it to the final bind off, but even that was a bit of a struggle. I tried about four different methods (with a nap in between each) before I finally found one shared on Slip Slip Knit that I thought might be ok. I actually used a crochet hook to bind it off, because I'd ripped out the stitches so many times that I didn't want to risk breaking the yarn at the end with my needles.

Even after the bind off, I wasn't all that sure that I was going to like the result. I wanted a nice, big shawl to wear over my shoulders during the cool summer evenings. I was determined to use up all of the yarn, but I got to the point where I couldn't force out another repeat for fear of ruining the shape of the shawl. For once, I was disappointed about not running out of yarn.

After I bound off the stitches, it looked disappointingly small:


Last night, I got up the courage to block it, and I was much, much happier with it. I was especially pleased with the points I was able to block into it, and I'm much more confident with the way the beads are standing out in each of the points:


It's still on the blocking boards right now, because I always like to leave things to block for a full twenty-four hours, just to make sure they are fully dry and so that they will hold their shape. I also wasn't in any mood to make myself presentable for photos. I think I'll wait until I look less like a zombie to share the final result.

In the meantime, I'm going to daydream about making something from this new pattern book I got yesterday. I suddenly feel excited to dive into my stash to pull out some cotton that has been waiting to become something:


I spent some quiet time with some friends this afternoon, and for the first time in a couple of weeks, I finally feel rested. There's something about being around a certain energy that rejuvenates you in a way that even a full night's sleep can't. I'm cautiously optimistic that I'll be back to my old energetic self soon.

But first, I think I'll go lie on the couch for a bit. It's best not to rush these things...

Monday, April 11, 2016

Matlock and Missing Eyeballs

I'm in Winnipeg right now, visiting my family for a short break. My father had a brief stint in the hospital, and I decided that now was a good time to be home. He is doing pretty well, happy to be home, and weathering the tiresome Winnipeg springtime, as it teases us with sunshine through the windows, and then smacks us with harsh winds as soon as we venture outside.

I am so glad to be home. I've been so tired recently, and I am glad to be away from my office at work for a little while. Being here on my own without the obligations of holiday visits makes it my own little holiday. It's like traveling back in time, because I'm back in my old bedroom, with my familiar things around me. My mom feeds me with all my favourite foods. Dad watches a lot of Matlock and M*A*S*H, and sometimes, during the commercials, I catch myself wondering what year it is. I'm surprised by news of presidential campaigns and commercials for cell phones. It's like being pulled back and forth between the past and the present.

In the airport the other day while I was on my way here, I was sitting at the departure gate and happened to glance over as the lady next to me pulled out a ziplock bag with pink cotton yarn in it, along with two knitting needles. I watched out of the corner of my eye as she began to stitch. She was a beginner, concentrating hard on making her stitches even, counting them carefully. I pulled out my knitting bag, excited to find one of my people, eager to discuss what each of us was doing, but then I became suddenly shy. It seemed a bit rude to pull my lace weight, cabled shawl with the beads I was going to work into them ratting away in my project bag while she was concentrating so hard on her dishcloth. Instead, I folded my hands and watched her out of the corner of my eye. I'm always entranced by knitters.

Isn't it interesting how, in a departure lounge full of people, the yarn people found each other? She even ended up sitting behind me in the plane. Yarn has a strange magnetism, it seems.

I brought along my 2Hundert shawl. It's reached the stage where every single row takes about ten minutes to complete:


And now that I've started adding beads, it's more like twenty minutes:


And add all of the errors and dropped stitches that come along with trying to add beads without a pattern, it's actually more like an hour. Sigh. This will not be a coffee shop project... unless that coffee shop has lots of light and will allow me to shush anyone around me and will tolerate my muttered curses.

Perhaps I was a bit too optimistic about my knitting productivity while I am here. I brought along another mini project to work on when the shawl was finished, but it looks like I won't be getting anywhere near it. I was going to make little hearts with smiley faces on them to sell to raise money for an upcoming Heart and Stroke Fundraiser I'm going to be part of:


It's probably just as well I'm not going to start them yet, because when I pulled out my box of craft eyes, I realized I forgot all the backing snaps for them. Using them like this would mean that the eyeballs would pop out of each toy if anyone squeezed them. That would be funny, but maybe wouldn't be all that appropriate


I go back to real life tomorrow afternoon, and I can't say that I'm totally ready for it. I'm enjoying floating along in this life of no obligations and nowhere to be. I'm grateful to have the break, though. It's given me time to get a better perspective on things, and maybe life doesn't have to be the relentless push forward that I sometimes turn it into.

Gotta go. Family Feud is on. After that I'll take a nap.  Yes, I planned that. I have to plan SOME things to keep my sanity. Imagine the chaos that would ensue without planned naps... I shudder at the thought.

Have a great week, all.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

About a Tiring Week and an Alien Shawl

First thing every morning before you arise say out loud, 'I believe,' three times. --Ovid
I had a hard week at work this week. Well, in truth, it's been a tiring time for a few weeks at work, but at the end of this one, I felt like I ran uphill the whole time. By Thursday, I felt like I'd was getting close to the top of it. By yesterday, I was at the top, but then had to run through a patch of thorny bushes. So yes, it was a hard week.

Thursday morning, I woke up to the sound of springtime birdsong. I sat up with dread, fearing what the day would bring, but after I took a few deep breaths, I decided to believe that there was definitely going to be more to this day than work, and that I was going to go looking for something else to add to the day.

I got up, put on my running gear, and went out for a beautiful morning run. After injuring my knee last weekend and being relegated to icing and stretching and babying it at the gym, it felt so good to be outside in the fresh air, watching the sun rise as I trotted along, and listening to more birds singing (and woodpeckers pecking - I bet they're popular). It was a wonderful hour to myself - a good start, even though I knew I'd be crashing through the chaos of another day at work.

On Friday morning, when I woke up, I told myself again to believe that there would be more to the day than work. And there was. On the way to work, I noticed the magnolia tree on my driving route was in full bloom. I circled the block and parked underneath it (actually, I stalled my car underneath it - I wasn't quite awake enough for such a detour). I climbed out of my car with my phone and hopped around on the road, taking photos of its beautiful blossoms:



I noticed petals dropping as I took them, but it was only when I backed up a bit to get a shot of the full tree that I noticed the crow perched in it. He must have been having lots of fun poking around in there:


So, here I am on a Saturday, grateful to have reached it, grateful to have had a long night's sleep and to have had a nap this afternoon, and grateful to have some time to myself. I got up this morning and took these dried beans that I got out of this week's veggie box and put them in to soak. They're so pretty... like they've been dipped in marbling paint. I'm still deciding what to do with them, but I'm glad to have the chance to play around with them this weekend:


And of course, I'm happy to have some time to knit. I did have time to knit this week, but I'm thinking I might put a movie on this evening and settle down to an hour or two of uninterrupted, blissful stitching. I'm reaching an interesting part of the shawl I'm working on. As a true yarn nerd, I'm totally excited by it... even if it's going to take me a long time to finish it.


The pattern is 2Hundert, and the yarn is a skein of Paternayan Crewel, a discontinued laceweight yarn in a dusty pinkish grey that I bought a few years ago and that has been begging to be made into something. The pattern is a surprisingly simple shawl. It starts out from the top centre, and it grows outwards, a semi-circle that gets bigger and bigger until you add the cables at the edge. Earlier in the week, I was still in the "amazement" stage of the shawl, when you say, "Wow, this is working up so quickly! At this rate, I'll be done tomorrow!"

But you forget about this thing called this thing called geometry. I won't go into the formula for it, but of course, the larger diameter of a circle, the larger the circumference. In short, the more I knit, the bigger it gets, and the longer each row takes to knit.

And for some reason, there's no such thing as "steady growth" with a shawl. You fly through the first half of it in leaps and bounds, like you've got some kind of knitting super power, like in those dreams where you can run so fast without any effort at all. And then real life hits, and all of a sudden each row is like racing through a giant vat of custard... which might sound enjoyable, but is actually a lot of work:


I have still quite a lot of yarn left, but I'm not going to be tempted to try to do extra rows before the edging, because another annoying thing about these shawls is how they suddenly turn into hungry little beasts out of nowhere, gobbling up huge amounts of yardage for each row, where previously, they were only daintily nibbling at the ball as it grew. It's like those movies where people find cute little alien creatures and take them home: they look like they would make awfully cute pets, but soon they're eating all the food and all the people and all the toilet paper...

You haven't seen that movie? Have they made that movie? I'm sure they have.

Anyway, I am very glad that there is more to life than weeks of hard work. In my heart, I believe that it'll calm down some day, and I believe that I have the ability to change things so that it won't be so hard. It'll be a matter nudging things into the right direction so things will settle out it its natural order. All things have a natural progression.

Except for those alien shawls... sudden giants taking over your knitting bag... 

Hmmm, I believe I need another nap. Happy Saturday.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Inspiration Mondays: Luck, Serendipity, and Sheep Magazines

Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart. --Marcus Aurelius
Some things are just meant to be.

I'm one of those people that shops around for the best credit card, not because I need a lower interest rate (I never carry a balance), but because I like freebies. I have had rewards cards for years now: cash rewards, loyalty points, travel miles, whatever I can get for zero fees. There are a surprising number of those kinds of cards out there, and I switch every couple of years. Since I use my cards for my regular expenses (plus the occasional treat), and pay my cards off every month, the rewards end up being true extras: I get paid for the money I'm already spending.

So, I've had this cash rewards card for years now, but I found a better one through my bank that gave me a better return. I had about $50 of cash rewards left of this card, which was sitting as a credit on the card. Before I could cancel the card, I figured I'd use up the credit for a treat for myself.

I'd been thinking about using it for a magazine subscription, specifically for Wild Fibers Magazine. I'd bought an issue back in December, and loved it so much that I thought it would be nice to get the subscription for a year.

Then, I thought about the other "necessities" that needed to come first: dental bills, groceries, a new pair of runners (I did need them. My feet were getting destroyed), fuel for the car, or a new pair of trousers (because I can't keep living in leggings). I thought about it for a week, then a few weeks, then a month...

So, finally I got myself a couple of pairs of pants. Go me...

... but by then, my credit card company got fed up of waiting for me and sent me a cheque for the credit...

... so I deposited the cheque and used it to pay for the purchase of the pants on the card...

... and then the pants didn't work out, so I returned them and got another credit on the card...

... so now, I'm back where I started.

So, guess what? Today, I'm getting the subscription.

I got lucky with that one, but what I'm working on right now is understanding that sometimes, things are just the way they are. Sometimes, things work out pleasurably (as with my sheep magazine), and sometimes, things work out painfully. And the only way to feel truly free is to make room for all this to happen without ranting, without pushing it away... just to look at it and say, "it is what it is."

Because it is. And a lot of what IS... is pretty good.

Today, I am inspired by the idea of serendipity, and that most of what happens in life is really just serendipity in disguise. All people that have come into my life have brought something to me... all of them, even the ones I have felt pain while knowing, because without them, I would not be learning how to be better. And for the ones that have brought me joy, many thanks. I'll be there when you need me.

I'll just be in the corner with my sheep magazine.


Saturday, March 26, 2016

Ordinary-Ordinary

I just happen to like ordinary things. When I paint them, I don't try to make them extraordinary. I just try to paint them ordinary-ordinary. --Andy Warhol
It's weird how the week before a long weekend seems like the longest week ever with the shortest amount of time to get things done. It was one of those weeks when I felt like I'd gone hurtling head-first into Thursday afternoon, where I landed tired, weary, sore, and ready for a rest. In fact, all I remember about Thursday evening was going out for a bite to eat (and I can't even remember much of that), before I came home to put my pyjamas on (inside out) and went to bed.

I was ever so grateful to have Friday off. I feel like I haven't had a weekend to myself in ages... and as much as I like visiting and shopping and seeing new things from time to time, I need those quiet, unexciting weekends to myself, where nobody is looking for me and nothing really needs to get done. I had a rare morning where I could stay in bed for as long as I wanted: no gym, no morning run, no morning swim, no nothing. It was a wonderful treat.

We went out for a walk at Jack Point and Biggs Park. I kept seeing all sorts of pretty spring flowers, and I meant take photos of them on the way back... but there's a weird sorcery around the woods that makes the exact same trail look so different when going in the other direction, and I ended up totally missing them. I took a photo of these sweet little mushrooms at the halfway point, though:


On the way home, we stopped to pick up the first of our Community Supported Agriculture boxes (or CSA for short). It's the first time this farm has done an early spring session. At first, I thought it looked pretty meagre, but then I realized that I'm going to be getting one every week. It's quite a switch from supermarket shopping, where you load up on as much as you can and keep it for two weeks. It's going to be a nice spring, I think:


I've been working away on my bathroom mat, which looked like this yesterday morning. After making complicated sweaters, and after contemplating patterns for laceweight shawls, making such a mundane thing as a bathroom mat seemed dull and ordinary:


Unless you looked at the back of it, which shows all the intarsia panels I was using:


This morning, I tweaked my knee a bit during my run. It's a bit swollen now, which means I won't be doing any mad hikes for the rest of this weekend. I did venture out for a short walk, though. It's a beautiful day to be outside today:


When I got home, I decided to try making some dry-roasted chick peas, which were going well... until I burned them:


So, swollen knee or not, I was determined to redeem myself, and went off on a bit of a cooking spree. I made a batch of my standard banana oatmeal snacks:



And then a batch of blueberry scones:



And while I was at it, I roasted some sweet potatoes:



And used them to make a proper "West Coast Hippy" Buddha bowl, complete with spinach, cucumber, kidney beans, and quinoa:


So much for ordinary.

But at least my rather ordinary bathroom mat is finished: soft and squishy, and since I made it out of acrylic, easy to throw into the wash each week:


It's somewhat lopsided, due to the mixture of different stitch types, but I still love it:


Perhaps later, I will treat myself to a bubble bath, after which I will enjoy stepping onto my new bathroom mat. And after that, I will enjoy a dull, quiet evening on the couch, complete with a book and maybe some knitting.

Ahhh, ordinary... I missed you...

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Kettle and Couch

One measure of friendship consists not in the number of things friends can discuss, but in the number of things they need no longer mention. --Clifton Fadiman
It's an interesting old world, isn't it? It's full of all kinds of people with all kinds of personalities and all kinds of interests. There are billions of people on this planet, and most of them I will never know. Some of them, I kinda wish I didn't know...

And then there are some that I am so grateful to know.

I was "faking it" when I first started this blog all those years ago. I did it in a desperate bid to try and get a job at Ravelry. "Share your profile, your projects, and your blog. Let us know how much you love yarn!" The thought of working in a yarn-related field was tantalizing to me. I wanted that job badly.

The problem was that I'd barely posted any projects online at that point, and I did NOT have a blog. So, I found Blogger, and whipped one up and started writing about whatever I could think of. I spent hours and hours out of my week looking for places to share my blog with like-minded people. And then, to my surprise, people started reading it.

One of them was YarnKettle. I can't even remember how long we've been reading each other's blogs. And, last weekend, we met in person for the first time.

You know that worry you get when you're about to meet someone that you've never met in person before but you've been in touch with for a time, either by phone or by email or whatever? I didn't have that. I was pretty sure that this was going to be like peanut butter and jelly: a great combo.

I picked her and her hubby up at the ferry terminal. I stood there, straining my eyes, worried that I'd do the super embarrassing thing of not even recognizing her. But there she was, striding straight towards me with a big smile on her face, walking so quickly that her hubby had to run to catch up.

Yarn people are like that, you know.

It was a great weekend. They stayed at the cabin we love to visit so much, and it was so great to be able to share all of the things I love about this place with them. It was even better to see that everything we liked, they seemed to enjoy as well. It's so rare that having visitors is so easy.

We went to The Loom, where we managed to get her a knitting project (imagine a knitter running out of projects, wink wink). We walked behind the shop to Leola's Studio, where we met this amazingly fluffy doggie:


And we also went to the Teafarm, which I knew she would love (her name isn't YarnKettle for nothing). We sat and enjoyed tea and treats and conversation, and a beautiful evening in the valley:


The next day, we had lunch in Chemainus, and then spent a rainy afternoon wandering through antique shops and playing my favourite game: Whaddaya-think-that-is? We both lingered at the kitchen things, and dithered over whether or not customs would allow them to take home an antique Chinese opium pipe (we thought no), and had lots of laughs.

The cool thing is that, every time her hubby asked me about the sweaters I was wearing (because, when you meet a knitter, you should always wear one of your projects), she knew the answer. She nodded along to everything I said, because she already knew the story. We knew all about each other, and I think we might have started sentences in the middle of the conversation a couple of times, much to the confusion of others around us. We're just that cool.

And, to my utter delight, she brought me these socks, which she worked on furiously prior to arriving and was even battling a greedy airplane passenger who wanted them while she worked on them on the flight over here:


We're both self-proclaimed Selfish Knitters, so I know how lucky I am to have someone think of me so highly as to spend the hours and hours it takes to knit two perfectly-fitting socks for me:


Seriously: how does someone who's never met me, much less my feet, make a pair of socks that fit so perfectly?


I'm trying not to "keep them for best," because socks are meant to be worn. I'll be wearing them today for a few errands, and I'm sitting here with them on. They feel so good. My feet feel hugged:


She brought me the leftover yarn, because, if someone knits you socks, it's always nice to have spare yarn in case you need to darn them:


And she brought me that mug, too. It's from Equinox Farm, where the Crazy Sheep Lady lives, whose blog I follow with equal vigour. I felt like I was getting a relic from some mystical place:


It even has Woolliam on it, which is the coolest sheep on the planet:


And she even brought me more yummy tea. Sigh, lovely:



I had a discouraging day at work the other day, when I learned some disappointing things about some people that I thought I could trust. I was disheartened, but as I sit here and write this, I'm so grateful that I've been lucky enough to meet someone like YarnKettle. It's such a relief to know there are people like her in the world.

She got some bad news today. And I know now, more than ever, that, even without speaking about it, my heart is with her. Some things you don't even have to say.

Many blessings from the Couch, my friend. Thanks for being in my life.