Monday, October 29, 2012

Inspiration Mondays: Flat Tire Reminders

There's nothing quite like a puncture in your tire to remind you of a few things:
  1. Sometimes, sh*t happens. There's nothing you can do about it, except to take it and move on.
  2. Knowing how to change your tire is important.
  3. Knowing who to get to change your tire for you is also important.
  4. People are better than you think they are.
I had a puncture in my tire last Friday. I arrived at work, and someone pointed out a strange hissing noise coming from my car. I walked around to the back and found that there was a fence staple sticking out of my tire, and it was deflating at an alarming rate. Shoot.

I went straight into the building and told the fellow who works at the shipping and receiving desk, "If someone tells you that I have a leak in my tire, tell them that I already know and that I'm working on it."

Off I went to my desk, where I promptly wolfed down some food (I hadn't had breakfast yet, and I knew I'd be even more grumpy with a flat tire and an empty stomach), then I called the hubby to tell him what had happened. I went back out to see if I could inflate the tire to get it to the tire repair shop, but it was no good: the more air I put in, the louder the hissing noise was, and the grumpier I got.

I went in and our shipping guy said, "I've had five people tell me you had a leak." I grunted, slightly annoyed. Yeah, I know! I thought to myself.

I got back to my desk and my office mate informed me that someone had called from the shop in the building to tell me I had a flat, and to offer compressed air for it. I grunted again, annoyed at the reminder of my stupid tire. Eventually, I got some friends to come and help me change it at lunch time (which means, they changed it while I watched), and by the afternoon, the tire was repaired and back on the car.

And then, as I recounted the event later on, my hubby said, "It was nice that people were so concerned about you to tell you about the tire."

Heh, actually yeah, it was nice of them. And if I hadn't been to fricking grumpy, I would have thanked them properly.

Sometimes, I forget to recognize the kindness that people are sending my way. I get so stuck in suspicion and cynicism that I completely miss the genuine concern that people have about my situations. And that's not fair. To live a life of gratitude is a far better way to live.

I have people in my life who constantly refuse help, and who have a hard time believing the good motives in the people who are trying to help them. To them I say:

People are getting involved in your situation because YOU ARE WORTH IT. You have shown kindness and compassion, and you deserve kindness and compassion in return. Do not give in to the suspicion that the world pushes onto us. You are not weak for accepting help. It requires far more strength to put aside cynicism and to accept that you are worth the effort. You are worth the work.

So, while it irritated the heck out of me to have a flat tire just before the weekend began, it was a good reminder that I am surrounded by good people who think I'm worth looking after. Thanks, y'all. I promise I'll pay it forward.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Gung-Ho, Yo

There are few things I fling myself into with a gung-ho attitude. It's not because I don't enjoy adventure... it's just that I hate having to clean up messes. This cautious-gung-ho-ness has made me really good at the following:
  • last-minute saves
  • adapting on the fly
  • appreciating whatever result I get (some call this "settling for less" but those people usually don't know how to make anything by hand)
I've been in dire need of mittens for a while, and after a snowy start to the week, I decided I should not delay any longer. I jumped up last week and went over to my yarn shelf and pulled out some worsted weight yarn and thought: Ok, Adriene. Make some mittens!

The thing is, I really didn't know what kind of mittens I wanted. I just knew I wanted them to be interesting. That usually means I'm in for a little bit of brain-wrestling while I figure out what to do with my sticks and strings.

I decided I wanted to use two colours in my mittens, but I really didn't want to do any crazy fair isle knitting just then, so I logged onto Ravelry and typed "mittens" and "two color" into the search. It was there that I found some examples of some neat two-colour cabled mittens. I couldn't find a pattern I liked, so then I typed "two color cables" into the search, and found Jennifer Fleury's Kriya Yoga Mat Bag pattern, which is covered in these types of cables. A few clicks and a few calculations later, I cast on for some mittens.

And while that sounds an awful lot like I knew what I was doing, but the truth is, I really didn't. I figured I'd make it up as I went along. As I went along, though, I started to get a bit nervous.

Firstly, the stranding inside the mitten was making it a bit small, so I threw in some extra increases to make room for my palm, which looked ok... sorta...

Then, I wasn't sure I could remember how to make an afterthought thumb properly, but I muddled my way through marking it with some yarn from memory, then knitted it from memory as well. It looked pretty good... mostly...

Then, when I went to decrease for the tips, I realized that my extra increases for the palm meant that the number of stitches for the palm and the back of the hand uneven. That meant I had to fudge my way into making them even again... somehow...

And THEN, because I had knit them one at a time, I had to muddle my way through making the same mitten whilst trying to remember all the fudging I did, because I had very cleverly forgotten to write it all down. And well, I wasn't sure I was liking the result. It was all a little... meh.

Luckily, there are miracles in knitting. And the best miracle is blocking. I used this vintage shoe tree to block it...

... which worked well, but looked a little creepy when I hung it from my yarn shelf. I ran into this disembodied hand more than once this week...

But the result was great.

Gung-ho paid off, at least this time. Adventure-knitter, that's me...

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Change of Heart

You are always free to change your mind and choose a different future, or a different past. -- Richard Bach
A few years ago, I don't remember exactly when, and I don't remember exactly where, I saw a picture of a scarf. It was knit with beige yarn, almost the colour of oatmeal, and had pretty little shell-coloured round sequins or buttons sewn to it. I remember seeing it and thinking, "Oh, that's a pretty thing. I bet I could make that." And the thought intrigued me enough to start searching for some shell buttons or beads that I could sew onto a scarf. I found them online, and they were perfect: little beads in hearts and flower shapes.

And then I put them away and promptly forgot them.

A couple of weeks ago, I dug them out and thought: It's about time I made that thing.

The thing is, I couldn't really remember what it looked like, apart from the colour of the yarn and the beads, so I spent the next few days daydreaming about how I would knit it. I decided I would combine some plaited basketweave stitches with some simple cables and see what I ended up with. And I didn't really even know if it was going to be a scarf or a cowl or a... well, I wasn't sure what it was going to be.

So, I cast on with some Cascade 220 Heathers in a colour called Riverrock that I picked up from Knit and Caboodle when I was in Canmore a few weeks ago. I used a provisional cast on that would allow me to go back and knit a border at the beginning, if I decided that was what I wanted, or to graft the ends together if I decided I wanted a circular cowl. All the while, I was feeling pretty good about finally using those beads...

Except, when it came time to start thinking about exactly how I was going to use them, well... they really didn't work, no matter what I tried.

I fiddled with them for about half an hour. I moved them all around the piece, trying to convince myself that it was fine, that it would work somehow. Deep down, though, I knew that, like it or not, it was not meant to be. I'd have to change my plans. And my heart broke a little...

But then, I pulled out these little plastic jars that I keep my buttons in (I got the jars at a garage sale and knew they'd be perfect for my buttons). And once I found the right jar, everything fell into place.

I bound off with i-cords on both ends, blocked the finished piece, and sewed on some buttons...

Then I made little button loops using crochet chains...

Then, I put it on and smiled...

I smiled a lot.

It's too bad that my original little dream didn't turn out, but I guess it just wasn't meant to be. The beads are back in my stash, sitting there, waiting for me to figure out what to do with them. And really, I'm kind of glad, because I'd hate to have to force myself to like them in a project that wasn't in the stars to begin with. Far better to give them the project they deserve.

Back to the drawing board, I guess!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Inspiration Mondays: Walk a Goat If You Want To

I'd like to say nothing shocks me anymore, but the truth is, life shocks the heck out of me every single day.

Yesterday morning, the hubby, Rascal and I went out for our Sunday morning constitutional. It was chilly, and us humans were walking briskly. Rascal trotted along, revelling in the morning air, sniffing this, that and the other thing, and likely mentally ticking off the list of stuff to mark. A typical morning.

I glanced up and saw a man walking toward us, his hands in his pockets. He wore brown overalls, a flannel shirt, and a coat on top. He had a brown cap on his head. Behind him, I saw his dog walking behind him, tall, with black and white fur.

That's a tall border collie, I thought to myself.

Rascal spotted it, too. His ears perked up, and he started moving a little quicker, his eyes open wide as we got closer.

The man continued to walk toward us. We walked toward him. Rascal's nose started to twitch. And then, I realized:

"That's a goat!" I said aloud. "That man is walking a goat!"

Well, actually, he wasn't walking the goat. He was walking with the goat. It trotted easily behind him. The man smiled as he heard my exclamation. "Hello!" he said as we got near each other.

"Good morning," I said as we walked past, tugging Rascal along with us. He was so shocked, that he didn't even think about chasing it. He was probably thinking the same as me: That is a fricking goat!

We continued on in silence, with Rascal stopping every so often to look back and snort in disbelief. And then, about five minutes later, I asked the inevitable:

"Where is he going with his goat?"

Because, like, they were walking into town. Not out into a pasture or over to a barn. He was walking past the hospital. Were they going to the hospital? Were they going to the shops in town? Surely not on a Sunday. A goat in a shop on a weekday, well that would be more believable...

So often, people find out I like to knit, crochet, spin and dye yarn, and so often, the reaction is, "Why would you do that?"

Well, why would you want to play sports, or read romance novels, or garden, or travel, or play video games? Because you want to, that's why.

And why would you deride someone who has a hobby in which you are not interested? Because you're a bully, that's why. Cut them some slack: we don't all have to like the same things.

So, the next time someone give you grief about your hobbies, remember: If you want to walk a goat, walk a goat. I myself would prefer a baby one like the ones below, but hey, to each his own...

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Cowl, the Cat, and the Sorbetto

I have this unwritten rule about my finished projects: Don't wear them until you've taken photos of them. There are a couple of reasons for this:
  1. I feel like they deserve to be unveiled first on this blog.
  2. I worry that something will be wrecked before I get photos of them. After all, I need proof of what I spent all that time doing.
That means that, when it starts to get dark earlier in the evenings, I have to delay taking photos until the weekend when I know I'll have time to take advantage of the natural light outside. Lately, that means that finished projects sit around for a week or two until I can get around to it.

Last Sunday, I finished a cowl made out of three skeins of Sublime Yarns Tussah Silk DK, a 50/50 silk/viscose blend. I purchased it at The Loop last spring, and I meant to make a "summer scarf" out of it, but it didn't get on the needles until a couple of weeks ago. It was such a lovely knit: it warmed my fingers on the chilly evenings after I finished washing the dishes. I knew silk was warm, but it's so nice the way it glides along the needles and across my hands, even when it's a textured yarn like this.

I used Megan Goodacre's Canaletto Cowl pattern, but made a few adjustments to the central section to make it into a strip of linen-like stitches. I was in love with it as I was knitting it, and I was even more happy after I bound off and blocked it. But then, it was dark. And all week, by the time I had time to take photos of it, it was dark, too.

By Thursday, I was tired of waiting to take photos of it, so I brought it to work to show it off. On Friday, I wore it again. It felt lovely against my neck as I drove to an out-of-town appointment. When I finished at my appointment, I stopped at a convenience store and picked up a drink and a wee container of sorbetto, lime flavoured... mmm... I ate the sorbetto, got into the car, and started driving home. I'll be back in time to take photos of my cowl, I said to myself confidently.

About two-thirds of the way home, I happened to glance down and saw a flash of lime green. Wait a minute. What the heck was that? I thought to myself. I glanced again, and there it was: a big glob of sorbetto on my silk cowl. "Nooooooo...." I cried, my voice echoing in classic movie-style heartache. And it wasn't the only one. I found two spots. Fricken heck.

I got home, rushed past my waiting hubby and dog, and went straight to the bathroom to wash it out. I hung it to dry with a sense of relief. At least it's early enough for me to take photos after we come back from walking Rascal, I thought to myself. I felt great knowing the cowl had survived a possible disaster and would still be fine for the photos.

Little did I know that, when I got back from Rascal's walk, I'd spend the next half hour crawling around on my belly trying to help the neighbour's kids get their cat out from under our deck. I've never seen such a determined cat, even after spending time volunteering for the local Humane Society. I've chased enough cats (and rabbits, too, come to think of it) to award me some kind of feline-capture-expert status, but this one was determined to live under our deck until the next apocalypse.

By the time we got Smokey the cat home (carried by two children who had to hold it upside-down with two legs in each hand and a third bracing it under its back to avoid all the hissing and snarling), it was, of course, too dark. Another chance missed.

I finally got around to it today. The hat is on to hide bedhead for special effect. Incidentally, that hat is all of a sudden too big for my head. It had either stretched or my brain has shrunk, and after this work week, either is entirely possible.

Let this be a lesson: Patience is Golden. No wearing finished objects until the photos are taken. You never know when a cat and a bowl of ice cream are going to ruin it for you!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Inspiration Mondays: Not the End

I'm having a stressful, worrying time right now. I'm worried about failure, and about having to account for it. I've been an over-achiever all my life. The threat of not making the mark is hard for me to take.

I left work on Friday after working almost eleven hours straight and decided that I wouldn't log into my email on the weekend like I said I would to finish off a few things, because:
  1. I knew it would not be "just a few things."
  2. I knew that if I did, I would have no weekend left to speak of. And I need my weekends.
Instead, on Saturday, I went for a run, did some yoga, made some good food and watched a movie with the hubby while knitting away on a beautiful silk cowl. The movie was called "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," which was recommended by a friend who'd seen it a week earlier. And it was a lovely film: quite different from the weird shoot-em-up movies the hubby usually chooses (Cohen Brothers movies are hereby banned in my house, unless he doesn't tell me and sneaks one in).

And the line I remembered most was: "It will be alright in the end. And if it's not alright, it's not the end."

So, I woke up on Sunday morning after a very long sleep. I did a workout, knitted some more, took Rascal out for a walk, and made some ginger beef for dinner. I wore comfy clothes all day. I plucked my eyebrows. And, as I looked at myself in the mirror, I realized that, if I can lose 56 pounds in seven months, then I can do this.

It's not the end. Not by a long shot. I will not allow this week to descend into darkness.

Wish me luck.

Image from The Daily Corgi. Yes, there is such a site.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

This Photoshoot Was Brought To You By Walmart

Behind the scenes of this blog is the reality of taking photos of myself and my projects that both feature my projects and make me look half-decent. It takes a significant amount time. Today, for instance, these photos took me over an hour to take, and when I was finished, I have over fifty shots to choose from.

I finished my Hanami shawl last weekend. Since the days are getting shorter and my workdays are getting nuttier, it was really only this evening when I got around to actually photographing it. And when I was thinking about how I was going to take the photos, I started thinking carefully about what I'd wear. When I do lace projects (and that would be most of my projects), I always want to make sure that the lace gets the spotlight, and so that usually means I have to wear a contrasting colour to show it off.

I don't have a lot of clothes right now. I was going to go and pull on my old standby black, longsleeved shirt, except it's not fitting right and well, frankly, I'm bored with wearing black. I rummaged through my wardrobe, and while I unearthed a few workout shirts I forgot about and some nylons I thought I'd lost, I still didn't know what I should wear.

Off to Walmart I went, and I came home with this $6 shirt. And hey, it actually looks pretty good against the beautiful silk in this shawl.

This shawl was knitted with Diamond Luxury Pure Silk Lace in a pink colourway. It's the first time I've knitted with pure silk, and it's quite lovely... such nice drape, and so nicely blocked. The pattern turned out so beautifully, even though I ran out of yarn before I finished all the charts. I could have done fewer basketweave repeats to finish the cherry blossom lace, but I still love it.

And yes, the irony of wearing a Walmart discount shirt with a luxurious lace stole is not lost on me. Needs must, I say. Most knitters rage against the abomination that is the big box store, but given that shopping options in this town are few, you take what you can get. And you know, in this case, I'm pretty happy with what I've got!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Inspiration Mondays: Data With a Soul

I love stories. I've loved them since I was a little girl. One of my earliest memories is of my brother and I making recordings of us reading storybooks on tape. I loved reading them, and, from the time I learned to write words, I loved writing them. And I love, love, love listening to them. Even when I cannot understand the language of a storyteller, I am usually entranced by their voices and by their gestures. While I am so desperately wanting to know what they are saying, I find myself laughing at their jokes, or my brow furrowing with their sadness.

My whole childhood was filled with evenings where I sat politely in the living room while my family entertained visitors. I listened to all the gossip and all the stories about the births, weddings, deaths, and ghosts in their lives.

I have been marinated in tales.

I recently heard a story about a man in Cape Breton who helped out family by giving one of their children a brand new set of hockey gear when she joined the local league... just because he wanted to. Besides it being a touching story of kindness, I was struck even more by the man himself, and the way he talked about it. Just one invitation to talk about how life was different now from when he was a boy brought out a lovely narrative of the Cape Breton he knew. I listened to his words, his accent, the lilt of his voice, and I found myself smiling, my face uplifted, absorbing every single word, feeling the familiar warmth inside of me that I feel when a story is entering my mind, entering my body, becoming part of me.

Today, I am inspired by the storytellers I have heard throughout my life, and by the ones I have yet to hear. I believe that stories teach us, inspire us, heal us, instill healthy fears, rev us up to revolutions, and change us, even in the tiniest ways. And, even though it would be quicker and more efficient for someone to say, "Do this," or "do that," when the "data" comes to us in a story, it enters our souls.

Perhaps this is why there are so many stories and parables in religions, why they permeate every single culture. And perhaps this is why social media is so powerful: because we all want to tell the story of our lives, and, whether we mean to or not, we tell it on our Facebook walls and Twitter feeds and G+ posts.  And it's why I have this blog: because I don't just want to talk about knitting. I want to tell you the story of how these sticks and string made this sweater and scarf and shawl, because it's not the garment I'm wearing. I'm wearing the story of how I untangled thousands of yards of yarn, or the adventure I had on the way to the shop, or of the sheep or rabbits or alpacas that made the fleece.

I feel quite strongly that I was put on this Earth to tell stories. And I feel strongly that I was put on this Earth to learn as many as I can to pass on. Recently, I volunteered to go and collect photographs at a seniors home to celebrate a centennial here in this town. And while I did get a few photos, I collected far more stories. And tonight, I feel like I could do that again. It might be just the thing to get me out of the rut of my own worries for a while...

Perhaps that is how I can live happily ever after.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Friends of Baa'd Influence

I am easily distracted. There are plenty of times when I will stop in the middle of a sentence to gaze at something that is completely unrelated to what I'm supposed to be doing at the time. Ask dkzack: she gets that from me all the time, poor thing. She's said to me more than once, "You have to pay attention to me a little bit longer, Adriene." I've also famously shouted the word, "Rabbit!" during a meeting on a snowy day in a room with many windows looking out to nature.

Yes. Distracted, thy name is Adriene.

This makes it especially difficult to be a monogamous knitter. It is a tremendous disciplinary feat for me to keep on one project at a time. I'm constantly catching myself gazing at a skein of yarn, lost in a daydream of what it might become. It doesn't help that I have skeins of yarn in my living room, more next to the dining table, a ball or two under my desk at work, and my main shelf of yarn is in plain view of the chair I eat my breakfast on in the kitchen. Every morning with a bowl of cereal in my hand... crunch, crunch, crunch, dream, dream, dream...

A couple of months ago, my friend Tara generously gave me a batt she made on her shiny new drum carder. It was full of all sorts of fun stuff... wool, locks of mohair, recycled sari silk, some sparkly stuff... it was lovely and fluffy and wonderful. I made up my mind that I'd leave it aside and make sure I gave it the time and energy it deserved.

I found myself standing next to my yarn shelf where I'd left the batt one evening. I was supposed to be cooking dinner. I don't remember how I got there or why I was standing there, but my eyes caught sight of the batt. Then, I glanced up and saw one of my Golding spindles sitting on the next shelf up. I looked over at the stove where I had pots and pans bubbling away. I looked back at the batt. Then the spindle again. Hmm.

I darted over to the stove, stirred, seasoned and flipped all things that needed stirring, seasoning and flipping, then hopped back to the batt and started spinning like my life depended on it. Man, that felt good. It is surprisingly easy to spin, and it looks like I'm going to be able to spin it in one whole piece.

Except, I kind of almost burned the entire dinner while doing that. Heh.

It's on hold again for now, because darn it, I need to focus and finish my current project. Monogamous knitter, that's me...

Except Tara just gave me this beautiful braid of hand dyed Blue Faced Leicester roving. Aaarrrghh... Tara! I've realized, though, that all my spindles have some sort of fibre on them. It looks like, despite being a faithful knit-project person, I'm not a monogamous spinner. This is working in my favour because I'd be spinning up a little of every little bit of fibre I could get my hands on.

And she's not the only distracter. dkzack gifted me a pattern called Escalope, which we both spied during a visit to one of our favourite yarn shops. Since she gave it to me, I've been daydreaming about abandoning my current project and knitting it up with this skein of Malabrigo Sock yarn in Eggplant. Aaaarrrrghh... dkzack!

You guys are killin' me here. Baa'd influence, that's them. But man... they're so kind to me. Baa'd, but good... I love you guys!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Inspiration Mondays on a Tuesday: Working on Wasting Time

The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time. -- Bertrand Russell
I am rarely bored. In fact, I can clearly remember one of the last times I ever said that I was bored. It was when I lived in Belfast and I didn't have a hobby. It was before my knitting compulsions, before jewelry-making, before my blog... it was when I used to sit in front of the tv and actually WATCH it. Like, with my eyes, and not with my ears while my eyes were busy looking at something I was working on.

I used to think about those days and think, "Man, I wasted a lot of time back then."

I'm an active person. I cook and write and knit and crochet and draw. Last Sunday, I got up out of bed, made myself some porridge, then made a batch of pita bread, started some slow cooker ribs, baked some raspberry scones and a birthday cake. Then I thought, "Oh good, that's done. Now I can finally go out and clear out that flower bed," which I have been doing the last few weekends. (Incidentally, if you ever wanna pretend you're a giant, go out and pull some sunflowers out of the ground. Nothing like pulling huge blossoms out by the roots with not even so much as a slight grunt.)

But this week, I decided to take a break from a few things. Not blogging, of course... cuz like, I'm writing right now. I decided to give myself a little more slack and give myself a few more calories to eat each day. That means I have a little more time to do things other than exercise (which I do a lot these days). And, even though I could be knitting during that time (which I would love to spend more time doing), I've been doing other stuff.

Like... sitting. And looking out the window. And singing under my breath. And reading. You know, books. With pages.

This break wasn't really a choice for me. I've kind of ground to a halt because I think my brain and my body were screaming, "Uncle!" There's only so much you can fit into one day, only so much time you can be tired, only so many chores that can be done. And I know that if I carry on like this for too long, it'll eventually freak me out because all the things that need doing are going to pile up.

But for now, I'm just gonna chill. The kickstart is coming again, and I should be rested up for it. In the meantime, we'll just sit here. 'Kay?