Sunday, September 30, 2012

Steek Misteek Feexed

A long time ago, I wrote a post about The Second Most Scary Thing About Knitting. It was there that I stated that the MOST scary thing about knitting was steeking.

Well, guess what I did this week?

Steeking is where you cut through your knitting.Yes, cut. With scissors. You spend hours and hours knitting something, and then you cut it. Because you want to. You do this for various reasons:
  1. You want to save time by knitting a garment in one piece. This is often done in multi-coloured projects, because it's easier than knitting it in pieces and dealing with all sorts of yarn ends.
  2. You wish to make a garment fit better.
  3. You are mildly insane.
I was going for reason #2... and #3, now that I think about it.

I made my Twisted V Sweater a couple of years ago, and even though I loved it, it always bothered me how short it was and how floppy the bottom edge looked. This week, I put it on before going for a walk and realized that, since I'd lost weight, the sweater looked longer on me. I looked at myself at the mirror, thinking that I was finally happy with the thing, and then I realized that the whole sweater was looking floppy and baggy.

The options were to leave it as it was to languish in my closet, or to toss it. I didn't really like those options at all, so when I came back from my walk, I took it off, turned it inside out, pinned the sides in, tried it on and decided then and there that I'd steek it. I've spent a lot of time looking at manufactured sweaters, and most of them are steeked in some way... the pieces are cut from long sheets of knitted fabric and are sewn together by an industrial sewing machine to keep the edges from unraveling. Logic decreed that it would work.

Before I could think about it too long (and subsequently start freaking out about cutting my knitting), I had my sewing machine open and I was sewing stay stitches along the line of the pins. I tried it back on, decreed that it looked good, brought it back to my sewing machine, and ran a zigzag stitch right next to the line I'd just sewed, along the edge I was going to cut it.

Then, I whipped out the scissors and starting cutting the excess fabric off. My brain was screaming, "Wait! Waaaaaaiit!!!" But if I'd listened, the sweater would be sitting on my sewing machine yet, half-sewn, partially mangled by my scissors.

But I didn't listen. I cut it, and it was done.

The next day, I tried it on, feeling pretty good about myself, but you know... it still didn't fit that well. It needed to be taken in a bit more, and I wanted to tidy up the seams a bit. I brought it back to my machine to repeat the procedure... except this was the day that the machine decided to throw a few fits and I couldn't get a single straight seam into my sweater.

After a few tries and ripping several seams out, I sat there, feeling sad that I'd mangled this garment. I pinched rows of knitting between my fingers, seeing clearly where I wanted the seams to be, then I stood up, grabbed a hand sewing needle and started backstitching the seams in place. I fired up the sewing machine (which seemed to snap out of its tantrum) and ran another straight line of stitches right next to it. I cut the extra fabric off and sat back with a sigh.

And now I have a sweater that fits.

Oh, and traditionally, you steek woolen sweaters, because the wool eventually felts those cut ends together to make a more secure seam. This sweater is a cotton/acrylic blend, and thus required a lot of stabilizing, which is why I made all those double seams. It's a scarier thing to steek.

Hence the mild insanity I mentioned earlier.

I washed it, and the cut edges did fray a bit, but after a little trimming, they're all good.

I was going to run off and see what else I could re-fit with some steeks, but I think I might just take a break from it for now. All that was a biiiit too much. Back to more simple things, like knitting lace and baking cakes and making big batches of soup and stuff like that...

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Inspiration Mondays on a Tuesday: Forward Movement

I feel as though I'm stuck in a feedback loop of the same thoughts over and over again. I thought I'd search out some photos that showed forward movement, just to remind myself that it is possible.

Running the 10k I ran a couple of weeks ago.

Practicing abandoning ship on a cruise ship.

The sign at Bubba Gumps.

One of my first days back in Canada after living in the UK for seven years, about to take my friend's dogs for a walk.

Wandering a street in Windermere-on-the-Lake, England.

Hopefully these memories will help me to remember that one foot in front of the other is really the only way to move forward.

Onward, ho.

Friday, September 21, 2012


I'm out of town right now. I'm attending the memorial for one of my closest friends tomorrow. I'm sad... very sad...

But I'm grateful.

I'm grateful that dkzack came into the office today and handed me a skein of merino/cashmere sock yarn as a gift. "I knew you'd need something soft and comforting today," she said. And she was right. I draped it around my neck during the drive, and the warm softness kept my tears in check for most of the journey.

I'm grateful for the hug my friend, Megan, gave me before I left.

I'm grateful for my ever-steady husband, who I know will have dinner ready and many hugs for me when I get home.

I'm grateful for my friend, Dawg, who has come to my rescue more than once with the right words and many virtual hugs since I got the news about my friend's passing.

I'm grateful for the kindness of friends that I hadn't seen in over ten years who let me into their home when my original accommodation plans fell through. I felt sheepish asking, especially when it had been so long, but they welcomed me with hugs as soon as I stepped through their door. They went out tonight, but left me with instructions to take full advantage of their kitchen, including the wine cupboard. That, in and of itself, made my day.

So, I'm sitting here, knitting on my Haruni stole, thinking, thinking, thinking...

The word Haruni refers to the time of year when people go around to look at the cherry blossoms in the spring. That time seems so far away right now, given my mood and the fact it's the last day of summer.

But I know I'll finish it, sometime. And I know I won't always feel so sad. And, I also know that there are people around me who will hold me up when I need them, either with kind words, a hug, or a little tactile comfort from the yarny stuff I love. And that I am so lucky to have the sorts of relationships that make those actions so natural. And even though my heart is trembling right now, there is the promise of spring in my hands, and the knowledge that I will never forget the wonderful friendship I had.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Inspiration Mondays: Me/You

So, this is going to sound so egotistical, but today's inspiration is me. And by me, I don't mean ME me. I mean the concept of "me." I think we should talk about it.

There's really no one more important in the world than "me." You have to feed "me," clothe "me," and look after "me."

"Me" needs rest, fun, time to be with friends, time to be alone, lots of sleep, exercise, and things that make "me" happy.

My "me" likes yarn and vintage clothing and vintage kitchen stuff. It likes good food, and puzzles and making things. It likes to be around capable, competent, friendly, funny, caring people.

I'm talking about this because a lady in my Zumba class walked up to me and complimented me on my weight loss, and I gave her my standard response: "Thank you. It was a lot of work."

And it is a lot of work. It's like a second job. There is no two ways about it: this task is the hardest I've ever undertaken. I still go to bed some evenings tired and depressed, wondering if I should just give up.

But I haven't. And I hope I never do.

And I'm bringing this up because so many people have said to me, "Oh, my doctor/wife/girlfriend/husband/boyfriend said I should exercise/sleep/save more, but when people tell me to do something, I just want to do the opposite."

Well, bully for you. You think you're winning somehow, but you're not. You're hurting "me" instead. And why would you do that?

I repeat: There is no one more important in the world than "me."

And some people are hiding pain in their hearts and minds, thinking that they are taking the burden off their loved ones by doing so. "I can handle this myself," they say. "I don't want anyone to have to deal with this."

And the truth is: We all deal with your pain sometime. Let's do it together, ok? Let's sit down and talk about "me" and not worry that we will run out of love for "me."

Because there is no one more important.

Go look in the mirror and check what "me" needs. And when you find it, please don't be afraid to ask for help with it. And when someone asks for help, find the best way to do it, and do it with kindess in your heart, because that's what your "me" would want.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

First Frost, and Fast

You are ice and fire,
The touch of you burns my hands like snow.

-- from Opal, by Amy Lowell
We're at that time of year when the weather all of a sudden changes. The mornings are chilly, and evenings are nippy, and even though I feel the need to shed my coat during my afternoon walks with Rascal, the fact that we can even walk in the afternoon without baking tells me that summer is over.

Last night, we had our first frost. I've been really neglecting the garden this summer, so my poor zucchini plants got bitten hard. I managed to rescue a few to have with dinner tonight, but I think the veggie bounty is over.

With strange timeliness, my latest project seems to fit the days perfectly. It's Boo Knits' Fragile Heart Shawl, which I knit with Dragonfly Dyewerx's BFL Sock Yarn in Cloudy Skies. The yarn fit the bill perfectly (and I'm not just saying that because my friend, Tara, dyed it). It's a light fingering weight, which was perfect for the delicate motifs throughout the pattern. Even though it's not a colour I would normally choose for myself, the subtle changes throughout added a depth of colour that I couldn't walk away from...

And since I bought it at Tara's house, well, it would have been rude to just walk away.

This is by far the quickest project I've worked on all year. I cast on, and bam, I was finished the first section and one repeat of the lace in one day.

Holy frack. IN ONE DAY!

The next day, I was halfway through the second repeat. As it grew in width, I slowed down, especially when I got to the point where I had to add more and more beads per row. Still... flash, bam, alakazaam, shawl done. It's a little hard to see the beads in these photos, and the sparkly glint is lovely, but man, beads are tedious. Good thing they're pretty.

And, ironically, my next project is a silk stole in a pattern called Hanami, inspired by cherry blossoms. I'm hoping that I haven't jinxed myself and that I'll get it done before spring, but time seems to be a strange thing these days... it slips away like drops of water on an icicle.

How poetic. I better quit while I'm ahead...

Monday, September 10, 2012

Inspiration Mondays: Different From What I Thought

Today is the day after my first 10k run. I had a blogpost all planned for it: a litany of things I always wanted to say to those people throughout my life who had ever made me feel small and ugly and insignificant. It was going to be a post of triumph and pride.

But life sends you changes all the time.

Instead, I will say:

This is for you, Sarah. Thank you for being a wonderful friend, and for having the unique gift of always knowing what to say and when to say it. You have been and will continue to be an inspiration to me to be the best friend, wife, sister, daughter, and hopefully mother, that I could be. You have taught me how to be a decent person, especially to my most loved ones. You introduced me to yoga, which helped me to heal myself from the inside, and thus helped me to heal myself outside, too. Your spirit lit up every single room you walked into. I shall endeavour always to be the person you believed me to be. Thank you for being in my life.

Absence brings you nearer,
And the wait will be my craft.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Inspiration Mondays: Back to School Pledges

A few weeks ago, I blogged about my love of The Vinyl Cafe and the stories by Stuart McLean. Since then, the hubby and I have spent many an evening listening to the podcasts of the program posted by the CBC online. I'm usually down on my yoga mat stretching, and sometimes, the stretch is interrupted by my chuckles or downright laughter.

Last night, we listened to Stuart talking about the first day of school, and about the day he walked to school with a little girl, and how the grade one classroom had a pledge on the wall to the state of Texas. He wondered what he would do if he were to write his own Pledge of Allegiance. Being Canadian, this is not part of my school memory, so I listened intently.

And the words that resounded with me were:
I pledge my allegiance to truth, under whatever flag it flies, for I know no one holds all truth. And I pledge my allegiance to kindness wherever I see it and understanding whenever it comes. I pledge my allegiance to sharing and hopefulness, and to speaking softly, and to love when I feel it, and to hope when I don’t.
And that's because I am often exhausted by drama, however necessary or not, and the never-ending war over who has the right to say what truth is. I am exhilarated by hopefulness, and saddened when I meet people who cannot see the power of hope.

Because without hope, what's the point?

Anyway, I found a YouTube video where you can listen for yourself. Whether or not you are returning to school, or if you're just returning to work after the long weekend, it's worth a listen. For me, it helped to reset my mind for the workplace, and to ready myself for another school year. I hope it does something similar for you...

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Sunday Snapshots: Peppers, Skies and Silhouettes

I was at a market yesterday and spied huge bags full of peppers, and I couldn't take my eyes of them. $4.00 later and they were mine. I took a few and put them in the fridge, but the rest are now chopped up and in my freezer for future yumminess.

I loved the look of the yarn for my current project all caked up. It's called Cloudy Skies by Dragonfly Dyewerx.

And the ubiquitous Rascal shot, keeping watch out the window.

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Neighbourly Block Talk and Lazy Cole

I've been knitting for about six years now, and I think I've come a long way during that time. A few years ago, I blogged about my first venture into blocking a sweater, and now, it's no big deal to me. It's second nature to me to get out my blocking boards and pin out my projects into what I call "their perfect state."

Not everyone understands this process, and I'm not going to go into all the ways you can block your knitting in this post (you can read about how and why you might block your knitting at Techknitter's blog), but basically, you block your projects to even out stitches and to help set its shape. It's a finishing technique that makes your projects... well, perfect.

A few weeks ago, I finished one of my shawls, pinned it out on my blocking boards and had it out on the deck drying, my neighbour walked past, leaned over the fence and said, "Whatcha doing?"

I said, "I'm just drying this shawl that I knitted."

"You knitted a shawl..." he said slowly, as if he was processing something difficult to comprehend. It was as if I'd said, "I'm building a Martian spacecraft." Not quite believable... but he was seeing it first hand.

"Yep. And now I'm blocking it."

"You're blocking it..." he said again, processing the thought.

"Yeah," I said. "I'm just stretching it out so you can see the lacy patterns in it." I started to feel silly... like I was talking about the most un-cool thing in the world, like the yarn geek that I am.

He stood there silently looking at me. I looked at him. I looked down at my blocking boards, bent down, and rearranged one of the pins. He cleared his throat. I looked up at the clouds.

"Well," he said. "I guess it's a nice day for that."

"Yep," I said. Silence for a few seconds. Shuffling of feet...

"Ok, well have a nice day!" he said, trotting off to his garage, possibly at a slightly quicker trot than he normally would have.

He won't really ever understand, but it doesn't matter. What matters is that I make things I like and he respected that effort enough to at least TRY to understand it.

Anyway, I finished my Lazy Cole last night, and I just pulled it off the blocking boards. What a difference blocking makes:

It's a fascinating shape, and much more flattering that I imagined it would be. Since I made it with DK weight yarn and with larger needles, it's larger than the original pattern intended, but I love the size. It's perfect for my wide shoulders.

For those thinking of knitting it, make sure you watch cherylstirlng's YouTube video for the bind off. The pattern is not that easy to decipher at that point, and it will save you lots of hassle!

And yeah, don't forget to block it, even if your neighbours don't understand what you're doing. It's worth it!