Thursday, September 29, 2011

We'll Be Right Back After I Knit a Dragon

I am now declaring that, after knitting the Sugar Snap Peas scarf for the last few weeks, I am officially taking a pea break. (*snicker snicker* Get it?) And it's none too soon. This thing is taking a looooooong time.

Seriously, this ball of yarn hasn't changed in size for three weeks. Will it ever get smaller?

I was hoping I could get it done before I started anything else, but the next project is somewhat time-sensitive. A friend of mine has asked if I would knit a couple of hats for her little boys for Halloween. Actually, it's really for the older boy, but the little one will probably want one as soon as he sees his big brother's hat. They want to dress up as Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon.

I haven't seen the movie yet (but I have the DVD sitting here on my coffee table, lent to me by the same friend). I've seen a few projects here and there based on some of the characters in the movie, especially Toothless, which appears to be an adorable dragon with the face and mannerisms of a cat. I asked my friend for a couple of hats that fit her boys well so that I could make them the right size.

These hats are both lined, so I am going to make the hats themselves the same size and line them as well, just to be sure they are warm and snug on their heads.

As for the design itself, I have a few ideas as to how to make the horns on Toothless' head. My initial thought was to make cone shapes and stuff them, but then I remembered that I own a book that specializes in horns, flippers and other dragon-like adornments: Amigurumi Knits by Hansi Singh. This is the book that helped me to make this:

So, this weekend, I plan to put the peas aside to work on a couple of dragons. I know that Halloween isn't for another month, but I'd much rather give myself time to figure things out than to scramble at the last minute. Last-minute scrambles stress me out and make me grumpy, and my friends deserve way better than that.

Nobody likes a grumpy dragon-knitter. Trust me.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Inspiration Mondays: Reaching for the Keys

I woke up this morning yearning to hear this.

I love this video because:
  1. Watching people do amazing things makes me happy.
  2. Seeing people in their element gives me hope.
  3. Piano music reaches something inside of me that nothing else reaches.
I played the piano regularly when I was growing up until I moved away from home. Apart from a few short stints playing the organ from time to time, I really haven't touched a piano in years. And I miss it. I really, really do.

I suppose I'm posting about this today because, for the first time in a while, I woke up this morning not dreading the week. Instead, I woke up yearning for music, and finding my fingers reaching out for invisible piano keys. And that's a plus, isn't it?

Not a bad start. Not bad at all.

Friday, September 23, 2011

And They Shall Be Called Nubbins

Have you ever thought that certain words have the wrong meaning assigned to them? Take suffrage, for example. It sounds so much like suffer, yet it means something so different. I remember a comedy show that did a segment where they walked around on the street, asking women if "women's suffrage should be ended." And most of the women said, "yes!" Little did they realize they were actually calling for the end for women's right to vote.

In the same way, I feel that the word nubbin just hasn't had a fair kick at the can. Anyone who has read Margaret Atwood's pre- and post-apocalyptic novel, Oryx and Crake has heard how the word nubbin is used. It is basically the slang term for the chicken meat that people eat in the future, where chickens have been genetically engineered to be big blobby mounds of chicken breast only, and they don't even have heads or legs... just prime breast meat. Yeah, gross, huh?

On the other hand, the word nubbin has such a pleasant feel on my tongue that I can not stand the injustice of it having such a distasteful association. It nub... nub... like rub... bin... bin... buh, buh, buh... so soft on the lips...

I'm knitting away on Susan Pandorf's Sugar Snap Scarf, which is full of little "peas" made from bobbles. When I think of bobbles, I usually think of big chunky knots of yarn that bounce around on the fabric's surface. These little bobbles are small and delicate and endearing to be called by such a ruffian term. I think they deserve a better name.

Enter the nubbin. Cute. Nubbly. Nubbins.

Call the Oxford Dictionary, people. We've got a new definition.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Inspiration Mondays on a Tuesday: Same Song, Different Note

I posted this video on some of my social networks yesterday, and while some of you may have already seen it, I felt the need to write about it today. I'm not going to say too much on it, because it's a recurring theme for me: book learning is not the only kind of learning, and it is certainly not the only learning that should be valued. I said it when I talked about a student of mine called Ken.

The only difference here is that this is not just the wistful musings of a teacher who left the classroom. This is actually a problem, not in one country but it many countries. I keep hearing how we are making sure all children make it to college or university, but you know what? They all don't have to be there. We need some of them to learn how to do the very trades that make our day-to-day lives possible, not because some people "aren't meant for college" but because we NEED them to do these things. I mean, maybe we don't need them... but then we should get used to not having indoor plumbing, furnaces that work, or houses that keep us warm.

Think on it, and let's start talking sense. Respect the trades, and promote them to your children. We'll all be better off for it.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

When I Think of Camels...

When I think about the first memory I have of a camel, I remember my brother telling me that camels had humps, and that dromedary camels are the ones that only have one hump. I think I must have been about five or six years old, and it's something that has stuck with me ever since. Isn't is strange what your brain holds onto?

I also remember singing children's songs about camels (and why does poor Alice have to lug around so many humps?).

In high school, I remember a teacher telling us about going on vacation to Egypt and describing a horrible fellow tourist that insisted on teasing a camel until it spat on him. I can still hear his voice echoing in his room as he mimicked the tourist's voice, "Agatha! Agatha! It's got in my mouth!"

And, of course, I remember the weirdest sight of a camel I'd ever seen: a camel "parked" on the side of the road in Tunisia, waiting for his rider to come out of the medina.

A memory I certainly did not have was what camel down might feel like. I imagine camels to be sort of hairy, scruffy creatures, so even when I read that you could make yarn from camel down, my brain just didn't take it in. "Hm," I said... and read on.

The disbelief that I would get anything interesting from camel down continued, even as I was learning to spin it. It was a lot of work, and it needed a lot of twist, and it looked and felt like twisty, hairy twine. I was not really that impressed by it, but I soldiered on with it because I didn't want to give up on it.

As an aside, two sandwich bags full of camel down is a bit like Mary Poppin's carpet bag. It didn't look like much, even though I had full knowledge that I'd purchased 100g of it, more than enough for a decent skein of yarn. You open them up, and the stuff just keeps coming out, like someone had gone into my spinning bag and secretly unspun it and put it back in the sandwich bag each night. Camel down messes with your head, dudes.
By the time I finished spinning all this camel down, I was well tired of it, but I decided to go ahead and ply it according to plan after all. I finished it up on Sunday evening, set the twist, et voila:

It's a beauty! I haven't measured yardage for it yet, but it's a darn good skein of yarn.

So, dromedaries, Alice, Agatha, and parked camels have brought me to this knowledge: a Mary Poppins bag of camel down makes a darn good skein of yarn. And that's it.

Not earth-shattering by any means, but now I've got something else to file into my brain to recall when I think of camels!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Words of Insanity

1250 yards.
3.5mm needles.
Widen the pattern.
Do more repeats.

What in the name of Pete was I thinking???

Monday, September 12, 2011

Inspiration Mondays: No More Failures

When we treat man as he is, we make him worse than he is; when we treat him as if he already were what he potentially could be, we make him what he should be.
~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
I go home for lunch every once in a while. I don't live far from work, so on days when I just don't feel like packing a lunch (like after being away on vacation for a week, as I have been), I just make the five-minute drive home and relax for an hour with my hubby and my dog.

Today, I happened to flip on the tv and saw that Ellen was on. Today was her season premiere. There was a lady being honoured on the show today, a principal of a school in Las Vegas. She has gone to extraordinary lengths to help unlock the potential in the children in her school. Below is a clip from the show itself, which explains exactly what she does:

I was so moved after watching this. So often, we think that the problems around us are not our problem, that we can't give away so much because there will be nothing left for ourselves, and that you can't solve problems with charity. I think that way quite often myself. It's not my responsibility to look after my neighbour's children, to let them into my life, as needy for attention as they are.

Is it not?

There are days when I feel that I have so much to offer, but that I'm not being called upon to use my talents. I think that I have more to give, but when people expect less from me, I don't get the chance to give it my all. My potential is there, but because no one expects it of me, I am reluctant to offer it up. My enthusiasm withers and I feel sad and unwanted.

When I have a challenge placed before me, when someone treats me as an equal rather than as a minion, and when I am asked to use my talents freely and expressively, I feel alive. When the roadblocks of pre-conceived notions are removed and I'm given a break from clawing my way up life's steep hill, my mind is free to explore, to fly, to soar.

Sometimes, when life pushes us down to the very bottom, you can't get up. You need people to give you a break, to lift the weight from your shoulders so that you can get up and crawl forward, even if it's just a few inches. You can't always fight your way out on your own. If the people around you stop seeing you as a person who needs to "learn the ropes" and begins to see you as someone who needs a breath, it is so much easier for you to reach your potential.

And, by the way, that's not charity. That's being a good guy. Because we all need good guys in our lives every so often.

I'm not going to go next door and offer to pay rent and clothe and feed my neighbour's children. I don't think their mom would like it, and I don't think I could sustain it. But I do think that I can choose to omit words like "failure," "waster," and "lazy" from my vocabulary and begin to treat people more often as the people they have the potential to become.

Troubled teen? No. They are wise in their own way. Maybe I'll ask them what they're thinking, what they're dreaming of.

Disgruntled employee? No. They are talented in their own way. Maybe I'll ask them to help problem solve more often, and value their knowledge.

Down and out? No. Just down on luck. Maybe I'll lend a hand and find ways to lift them up a bit, so they can move forward toward their dream.

Because we all have dreams, don't we? Wouldn't it be great if we found ways every day to help people reach them? Can you imagine how great the world would be?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Painting with Stitches?

I've seen some incredible scenery this week - The Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion Canyon, Yellowstone... rocks and trees and valleys and springs and geysers and volcanoes... I snickered as we drove through Yellowstone today, and a sign appeared that said, "Wildlife exhibit ahead."

"What? Isn't this whole place a wildlife exhibit?" I exclaimed.

Where else would I see bison hanging out next to a smoking caldera?

Since I started knitting, I've noticed that I look at this scenery with different eyes. I wonder to myself, "Could I make this scene with knit stitches? Could I find colours that match, or detail the intricacies with cables and slanted stitches? Could I paint this scene in a garment?"

I'm thinking more and more that I can.

Imagine something that suggests the curving branches and ashen pine cones of the lower branches of this tree at "The Paintpots" I saw today.

Or maybe the colours of this spring in West Thumb next to Yellowstone Lake.

It's made me think back to this post I wrote in the spring. While I strained my eyes looking for elk through the trees today, I worked out a way that I might be able to make this project work. And I know I want it to be cream or white (at least I think I do... we'll see what happens). I know how I will sculpt trees with stitches and, and I know that I won't be able to do the whole thing in one piece. I know how I will sew pieces together to overlap them the way I want.

It feels good to stretch some creative muscles. I feel excited to give this a try. This is one area of my life where I feel like I have total control, no restrictions, no one holding me back or telling me that I shouldn't try. I know I can do this.

So, the next question is: Do I need to buy any yarn for this? Hmmm...

Monday, September 5, 2011

Inspiration Mondays: Maybe the Turbo Blasters Will Kick In

Labour Day and we're on vacation in Kanab, Utah. We arrived here last night and got some pretty spectacular sights as we were driving in. Here is the view from our hotel window:

Kanab is a nice little town, and so far we've enjoyed good weather and good meals, and our hotel is dang nice as well. We've done our time in cheap, crappy motels, and we're glad to say that we got this one at a great price, breakfast included. I love the phrase, "breakfast included." It's almost the same as, "jackpot pending," or "free yarn."

Today, after I enjoyed my "jackpot" (biscuits and gravy, anyone?), we headed out to the infamous Grand Canyon. I'd been there as a child, but I really couldn't remember it. I have a colour photo somewhere that shows a ribbon of water sandwiched between rock above and below. I think I took it with a Kodak Ektra, or a camera of a similar shape. I must have had a viewpoint straight down to the Colorado River, pointed the camera at it, and snapped it.

I was eight. What did I know about taking pictures?

Anyway, The Grand Canyon is still truly grand, and holy cow is it ever high up. We were at 8800 feet, higher than I've been in a long time on foot. Going up slight slopes winded me immediately, and while I admit I'm not the fittest person on the planet, that is not something that would knock me down like that at home.

The only consolation is that, after spending time in this kind of elevation, my lungs will adapt. My friend, Sarah, found that going for a run after spending some time in Colorado was like having turbo blasters attached to her feet. Muscle efficiency, at least for a short time.

I figure that, if that's what's going to happen to me, I may as well take advantage of it. When I get home, I'm dragging out my Jillian Michaels DVD and hitting the basement. I need to lose some lazy-summer-belly-fat anyway. And if the turbo blasters are going to be there, I should use them while I've got them.

Of course, there is the possibility that the blasters will misfire and I'll get shot right into the wall... but I'll take that chance!

Friday, September 2, 2011

This IS Packing

How can you tell if I'm going on vacation?

You can't, because I'm terrible at packing.

We're heading off on vacation tomorrow morning, and I only really started packing today. As in, about an hour ago. And I'm still waiting for clothes to dry so that I can put them into my suitcase. I may or may not remember to bring a tooth brush. And pajamas.

It's not that I haven't been thinking about getting ready. I've already called my credit card companies and told them I'm going to be traveling, and for pity's sake, don't cancel my cards when I'm standing at the front of a very long line of consumers. I've cleaned both bathrooms until they are sparkling (and no, it's not so that the burglars aren't disgusted by my bathrooms. I just don't want the chores when I come home). I've picked as many veggies from the garden as possible and either gave them away or canned or frozen them.

And most importantly, I've been planning what projects to bring with me. What you see here is the collection of an obsessed woman:

I'm going on vacation for goodness sake. I'm supposed to be enjoying the sights, relaxing, and discovering new things, new places. Can I do that while I'm knitting, spinning, or winding balls of yarn?

Well, yeah. Why wouldn't I?

It's been a long time since I've spent an evening just sitting, not working on something. I used to work on jewelry. Now, I work with yarn. It's also been a long time since I've uttered the words, "Wow, I'm bored." I simply prefer to have something to do with my hands.

So, while we drive, I'll spin. Maybe I'll wind those skeins into balls. I might knit that lace pattern in the evenings after a day of hiking while I chat with my husband, maybe not. I might read a book or a magazine. But I intend to enjoy myself, and I think I'm most likely to enjoy myself if I can bring my hobby along with me. I don't think I'll get all of this done while I'm away, but I'd much rather not be caught with idle hands.

I'm not totally finished packing, but the important things are ready to go!