Monday, December 30, 2013

Inspiration Mondays: Trusty Me

I have a friend who tells me on a regular basis that I am "demanding." I maintain that I am not demanding, I just have a habit of making sure that I use whatever resources I can to get things done. And I don't like to rely on people, although that's probably not what my friend would say (he's been on the receiving end of my "demands" more than once). I usually see what I want, and then I move heaven and Earth to get it. Maybe this is because I have problems with trusting that other people will see things my way and that they won't come through for me. This means that I have trouble accepting gifts: I much prefer to choose my possessions for myself.

This also means that I'm a tough person to get for Secret Santa. Just leave me outta that, for everyone's sake.

But... I was surprised this Christmas.

We flew home to my family this year for the holidays, and since we were flying, I did not have the luxury of filling up a whole vehicle with all the shopping I usually do when I'm home. And, in an effort not to splurge on unnecessary purchases, I deliberately packed a smaller suitcase than I normally would have. There's nothing like the thought of having to physically carry the result of budget infidelity to curb your spending. I also didn't bring that many clothes with me, since I knew I'd be able to wash my clothes at my parents house. Small case, but still lots of space, and an explicit self-made rule not to shop.

The evening we arrived, my mom handed me a small bag of clothes, gifts from her and from my aunt in the Philippines. New clothes for the girl with the new body. And, to my surprise, I tried them on, and I liked them. Huh. How about that.

And on Christmas Day, I got gifts of more clothes that I normally would quietly pack away and never use them again, but again, I liked them. Every single one. And my mom gave me a handbag, one I would have never chosen (I'm super fussy about my handbags), but again, it's perfect. It is big enough to carry my knitting AND a magazine, yet slim and elegant. Huh. How about that.

Maybe my attitude changed, or maybe I was paying better attention.

Or maybe, I'm just more grateful. And maybe I'm learning to trust that people do get me, and that they really do know me better than I think.

Today, I am inspired by those people who already know how to trust others, and who probably have been able to enjoy the well-meaning intentions of others better than I have been able to in the past. Perhaps that is my resolution for the new year: to trust, and to reap the rewards of that trust.

Did I mention it carries magazines? AND knitting?

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Whatever Your Normal Is

Another holiday season, and another Christmas at home with my family in Winnipeg. There are some things that never change: Christmas Day with loads of visitors and an enormous amount of my favourite foods:

And an intense, Winnipeg winter:

And of course, my yearly visit with my Winnipeg knit-buddy: Linette. You must seek out your kindred whenever you can.

We met up at the same coffee shop, both of us 30 minutes early, both of us eager just to get on with our knit-visit. We ordered our coffees, and sat in the same area we sit in every year. Before we started to catch up, Linette pulled out a box...

Linette had read my post from a few weeks ago about never having had a macaroon before, and promptly sent me a message that that was a situation she was going to have to remedy. And behold, the delicious bounty that sat before us:

Thiis is the third photo I took of them because I was so excited that my shaky hands made the first two shots blurry.

Linette bought them earlier that morning and carried these delicate tasties around with her all day around town, on buses, through downtown stores, protecting them like Fabergé eggs in a Walmart on Black Friday. That's dedication, if you ask me. I was ever so grateful, and super excited.

We dove in and each had one, biting into them in silence, and savouring each chew. We stretched them out, stopping conversation to pick one out of the box to eat in silence. And each time, we entered some kind of warp zone where we forgot where we were and what we were talking about until we shook ourselves out of the sugary heaven we found ourselves in and landed back on planet Earth. I'm not exaggerating. We were stupid lost, but stupid happy.

We chatted about our families, vacations over the past year, and of course, our yarn adventures. She told me about her recent knit retreat (of which I'm thinking I need to do sometime), and we shared our pitfalls and successes with our projects. We talked about her alpaca allergy (which makes me so sad), and her subsequent foray into silks (which makes me so happy). And then, I said, "So... how about we go to a yarn store?"

Twist our rubber arms, why don't you?

We hopped onto a bus to Wolseley Wool, and I did my customary thrice-over on the place. I lingered on this baby jacket knitted from the Little Rowan collection, which I'm thinking would be really lovely in an adult size:

The folks at Wolseley Wool are smart cookies: When we walked through the door, we came face-to-face with a table with a Christmas tree decorated in yarn accessories, and surrounded by skeins upon skeins of luxury yarns, including the infamous Madelinetosh. And it wasn't long before one of those skeins appeared in my hand and stayed there for the duration of my visit. And then it wasn't long before I brought it to the till and paid for it to come home with me:

And yeah, we'd JUST finished talking about how we were both trying to stay away from variegated yarns, even though they are sooo pretty. Gah. It'll all work out, I'm sure.

It's funny how relationships develop. Linette and I had dinner ONCE a few years ago when she and her family came to visit along with a mutual friend, and somehow, this friendship was born. But I guess that's  how also traditions are born: we find something we like to return to, and we just keep doing it until there is no question that we will do it.

And now that I've had macaroons, it would be ok with me if we added that to the tradition. It'll be like having a turkey dinner, or decorating a tree. We could just make it... you know... the normal thing.

Anything can become "normal," after all.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Matching the Floor Tiles

As part of the final phase of being assessed as a kidney donor for my mom, I had two days of hospital test in Vancouver to attend. A lot of these tests involve a lot of waiting: waiting for reactions, waiting to have blood drawn at specific times, waiting with IVs in your arm, waiting for scans (usually with a full bladder) and waiting to talk to doctors, specialists, surgeons...

Knowing that this was coming up, I decided to make sure I had a project to work on in the waiting rooms that wasn't too difficult and that I could work on without a pattern. I decided that it would be nice to have another pair of fingerless mitts, and that it would be nice to work them in crochet for a change.

I started working on them a couple of weekends ago, after doing a quick canvass of my G+ followers for ideas and trawling Ravelry for an afternoon for patterns. I eventually settled on this pattern that I'd seen in my G+ feed a while back. It's in Korean, but there are a couple of good symbolized patterns there, which is my preferred type of crochet patterns.

I worked the cuff in knitted 1x1 rib, then switched to a crochet hook. I had a couple of false starts while trying to figure out which colour I wanted as the main colour and which would be the contrast colour, and I also went up a hook size to get puffier-looking stitches, but I finally came up with something I liked.

Yesterday, as I sat in the waiting room with an IV in my arm, I thought about how good it felt to crochet after so long... such a nice break from the needles. I learned to crochet as a little girl, well before I learned to knit, and the feeling of the hook in my hand was comforting and familiar as I sat there alone in the hospital. I worked on this mitt for a while, then stopped to give my arm a break and to take a few photos. It's only now that I realize how much they matched the linoleum floor in the waiting room:

I plan to work the thumb and the top cuff in white to match the knitted 1x1 rib of the bottom cuff. It's surprisingly warm, despite the fact that it's somewhat piece-y, and I look forward to wearing them while holding a nice warm cup of tea or coffee...

It was my mom that taught me to crochet, and from whom I inherited my love and appreciation of handmade things, homemade food, and vintage items. Interesting, then, that I unconsciously chose to go back to my first craft as I go through this process. My mom passed a lot of things down to me, and those things are huge part of who I am and how I view the world. She's given me a lot.

I'm hoping that, if all goes well, this can be a way for me to give something back to her. Whatever happens, I think that this whole process is teaching me to accept that what will be, will be. No amount of worrying can make the outcome different. I can only hope for the best, and try to use what I have.

And what I have is what my mom gave me: a healthy body and a love of yarn. Thanks, Mom.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Inspiration Mondays: When the Rawhide is Sweeter

Each evening at our house, there is a little ritual that must be performed by the furriest of us. It is so regularly done that I hardly think of it as being strange. It is just... done.

Rascal gets his dinnertime meal and gobbles it down as per usual as we eat our dinner. Then, he waits hopefully for something extra, which, if we think he really is hungry (or he looks pathetic enough), we give him after we finish eating. Then, he gets his rawhide bone to chew on for a little while after dinner.

But he doesn't chew it... at least, not right away. First, he must begin "the hunting."

He usually brings it over to his bed, drops it in, walks away a few steps, then stares at it intently for a minute or so. Suddenly, he pounces on it, but he doesn't start chewing on it. No, he is not finished yet.

Following that, for the next five, ten, or sometimes fifteen minutes, Rascal will put on the most impressive version of hunting a shih tzu could muster, complete with growls, sneak attacks and barking. He will grab his bed and shake it fiercely (usually shaking the bone loose and losing it under the sofa for a while). He will paw and lunge and drag his bed for several circuits around the coffee table. I'm often on the floor on my yoga mat while this is happening. I've been circled many a time by this spectacle, and I'm often bumped out of pose by his shenanigans.

And then, as suddenly as it started, it will end. He will either settle down and start chewing, or plop himself down and fall asleep.

I watched him this evening, wondering why he just didn't sit down and chew his bone like other dogs do. Then, I thought to myself, "Maybe it just doesn't taste as good if he doesn't work for it.

And there, friends, is the lesson:

Rewards are sweeter if you work for them. The more you sweat, the more you get. Nobody ever gets to the top of the mountain by landing on it. Yada yada yada...

But it's a good reminder, especially when I get to the end of a long, tiring day, and I feel like I just can't do another day like that again... forget about the fitness goals, the knitting projects, the big work plans... I give up...

No, it'll be worth it. The rawhide ain't as chewy if you don't toss it around a bit first. That's what he would say, I think...

Saturday, December 14, 2013

It Fought Back

To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect -- Oscar Wilde
Being a chronic over-thinker means that:
  • I spend a lot of times planning things out
  • When things don't pan out, it upsets me
  • Surprises are often unpleasant for me
Therefore, it is a rare thing for me to throw caution to the wind and just pick up yarn and start knitting with it. I mean, I've done it before, but it usually entails a lot of wrestling around with the project, a lot of restarts, and a lot of mid-project research before I get something I like. That all kind of cancels out the spontaneity of the whole pick-up-and-knit thing.

But that's what I did with my most recent project. I took two skeins of yarn off my shelf that I thought would kinda go together, found a stitch I thought would work with them, and started knitting myself a cowl.

I wanted a big, comfy cowl: one that would wrap around my neck, and that I could sink my face into when the wind stung my face during chilly walks. I wanted to wear it at work in my office, which is not always the warmest, and where I often find myself wrapping myself with my knitted objects. It was a nice idea...

Except, knitting this thing was awful.

It became a chore, something to avoid. I distracted myself by looking through knitting and crochet magazines. I flirted with other projects, thinking I might stray and start another one. And I found other distractions:

I baked stuff, like these cinnamon buns:

I played with bread recipes:

But I had to finish what I started. And finish it I did.

I was fully prepared to hate this thing. I hated it as I knitted each slow, irritatingly awkward stitch. I hated the uneven look of the ends of each round (which I was probably doing wrong, but was too lazy to figure it out), and I hated the look of all the ends I had to sew in. The crinkly, foldy-upy edges annoyed me, and they annoyed me even more as each method I tried for flattening them down failed one after another. As I weaved each of the scraggly ends into the scarf, I said to myself, "I'm not sure I'm ever going to wear this thing."

So, I did what any person in my place would do: I tried to destroy it.

I brought it over to the sink and soaked it in mildly soapy, tepid water as per usual to block it. I let it soak until it was really, really wet. Then, I went over to my kettle and filled it full and set it to boil. As it bubbled away, I drained the sink, then shocked it with the hot water. I stirred it around with a wooden spoon, then I drained that water and shocked it again with cold water...

This is one of many processes for felting wool, and I thought that it might make this cowl better. There were a couple of problems with this idea, however:
  1. I'd never done it before, and therefore had no idea how long it would take.
  2. I have zero patience for this sort of thing.
After a half-dozen shocks, I got bored, let it cool, then wrung it out. I folded it and let it hang in the bathroom to drip dry, then unfolded it took it out and let it dry completely.

I forgot about it for two days.

Then, I looked at it, and realized that all that shocking, while unsuccessful for felting, actually caused the yarn to bloom in such a way that was so pleasing that I found myself... liking it. The pinky hand-dyed skein had mellowed into kind of a salmon tone, with spoldges of darker colours throughout to give it depth.

When I took these photos today, I luxuriated in the cushy warmth of it.

Even the curly edges ceased to irritate me. The cowl destined for destruction seemed to fight back for itself, and I think it has won. I already know I'll be wearing it to work on Monday.

Well then, knitted thing, you win. I guess I'll have to love you, you annoying, pretty object. I'll admit defeat this time.

Good sportsmanship, that's what I'm all about, eh?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Inspiration Mondays: Chasing Fireflies

Sometimes, I'll be sitting somewhere... on the couch, at the dinner table, in the car... and a question will flare up so strongly in my mind that I devote several hours to trying to answer it.

The question usually starts with, "Remember that time when you saw/heard/read/tasted that picture/song/story/dish? I wonder where I could find that again?

Last night, I was sitting on my yoga mat in cow pose, and my brain said, "Remember that song you heard on a Vinyl Cafe podcast with those two singers you liked so much? Who where they again? What was that song again?"

And thus started an hour of searching online for this two-minute song that I heard once... maybe twice before. At first, all I remembered was the girl was named Melissa.

Then I remembered the last line in the song: Where did the love go?

I'll tell you right now, if you Google "Where did the love go?" you get a result of the most melancholy stuff in the world. Don't do it if you're feeling kinda blue.

Anyway, I found it: "Night Owl" by Whitehorse, a husband-and-wife duo of Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland. The YouTube video was the best I could find of it, but I'm thinking I need to purchase more of their music. The lines near the end go like this:
Like fireflies
Fickle lights
Burning holes
Into the night
It reminds me of a summer evening. And really, on chilly winter evenings, what's more inspiring than that?

I hope you enjoy it. I'm off to knit.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

I've Never Had a Macaroon

I like to think I'm an adventurous eater. I've been heard saying the words, "I'm Asian. I eat most things." And it's true. I've consumed many food items. I am a professional eater of the things most people will not eat.

But I've never had a macaroon.

I've been intrigued by macaroons since I read the play, "A Doll's House" by Henrik Ibsen back in high school. What were these things Nora had such a craving for?

It was only a few years ago (possibly through the wonders of the internet, I can't remember) that I finally saw what a macaroon looked like. The opportunity to try one has never really presented itself (I've always found myself too full or restricting my diet at the time or something like that). They've been too much on the periphery of my imagination when it came to looking for something new to bake, and since I'd never had one, how would I know I'd done a good job?

And so, the only macaroons I've ever had were these ones... sweet little stitch markers that I purchased from Etsy from this shop a few weeks ago:

And while I was at it, I purchased these Oreo stitch markers. I've eaten enough Oreos to know that I'm better off having these in my house than having a bag of real ones. The real ones rarely last a day...

And while I was doing that, I thought I'd better purchase these penguin stitch markers... because, as much as I've never had a macaroon, I have also never had a penguin with a scarf on. Truly. I have not.

So, perhaps while my life without macaroons continues on, at least my supply of stitch markers is not wanting.

Ironically, just after these stitch markers arrived, I embarked on a project that uses needles that are far too large for these stitch markers, a herringbone cowl that I wrote about here. So, while I am finally in possession of these little sweeties, I have yet to enjoy them.The universe seems to be conspiring to keep me away from macaroons.

Oh universe, how you mock me.

The only thing for it is for me to buckle down and finish this project so I can finally get to know macaroons... to finally meet my destiny and be united with these precious little desserts.

Overly dramatic? Me? Never. I better shut up now and get knitting.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Inspiration Mondays: A Violin in the Universe

My American friends have just celebrated their Thanksgiving, and that means we're diving headlong into the cacophonous madness that is the Christmas season. It is not my favourite time of year, because if I believed everything I saw on tv or heard on the radio or saw on the internet or read in the flyers, we're all supposed to be running around like crazy people buying up all the junk and getting completely stressed out over it. It's not what I think it should be about, but that's a rant for another day...

Instead, I am inspired by things coming together and falling perfectly into place, and people finding themselves doing the things they were born to do. Last week, I read this wonderful article about a violinist and her journey to the opportunity to play a rare and one-of-a-kind violin. She got the opportunity through the Stradivari Society, a special organization that is "dedicated to the preservation of and pursuit of excellence in classical music by identifying the world's most promising young artists and uniting them with the superb Italian instruments they need to help launch and sustain their professional careers"

What I love about this story is that she didn't just get lucky: she didn't have just one great audition and she didn't happen to know the right people. She was born for this: she was born on the night her father was one of the first to play Western classical music after the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Maybe I'm a romantic, but I love that her destiny is being fulfilled.

And I'm not stupid: I know that she didn't get this opportunity through raw talent. She goes through hours and hours of dedicated training, complete with sore muscles, strained eyes and weary fingers. Perhaps that is what makes it so inspiring for me: every single moment had its purpose.

It gives me hope... me, this person who struggles to find a path most days, who is unsure of her reason for being, and who watches with envy those who have clear passions and clear goals. I wander through each day, trying my best when I am feeling good and struggling forward when I am not. It gives me hope to know that, if the pieces fall into place for others, perhaps it will for me as well.

This is one of my favourite violin pieces, Nocturne by Le Van Khoa, something I heard one day and never forgot. I heard it in my head as I read this article, and even if you don't really enjoy classical music, I share it in the hopes that you can at least hear the joy in the violinist's fingers. It is the sound of someone who is right where they need to be. Perhaps I am there, too. I hope that I can realize that for myself someday as well.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Give a Knitter a Fish...

*Warning: poorly applied puns ahead.

I have been foiled.

I have been knitting away on a project that I thought would easy. Simple. Quick. Instant gratitude, that what it was supposed to be. But no. Noooooo...

I thought I would make myself a nice, cushy cowl out of a couple of skeins of aran yarn that I got from the dye class I took a couple of years ago. The pinky one is my own hand dyed skein from that class, and the second is a freebie skein I took home that day. I thought I'd try out a new-to-me stitch: herringbone stitch. It sounded like a good idea: simple stitch that works best with large needles:

Thick aran yarn, size 15 needles, simple stitch. You'd think this thing would have flown off the needles. The truth is that this stitch is probably one of the most aggravatingly slow, soul-destroying stitches I've ever used. It's like knitting the whole darn thing twice. Maybe I'm doing it wrong, I don't know, but MAN I am not enjoying this.

The stitch is named after a fish. Fishy business, this whole thing. Har har.

I suppose the good thing about something so slow-going is that it gives me plenty of time to think about other stuff, especially to daydream about other projects. There have been two that have been twirling through my mind recently:

I think I've found an inspiration to help me make the sweater I saw on a recent work trip. I trawled through the internet for a couple of hours searching for "open back sweater" and came up with this on Pinterest:

So, as I knit each, slow, aggravating stitch, I think about whether or not I'll knit it in pieces, or in the round from the bottom up, or from the top down. I think about whether or not I'll knit it with wool, or with a cotton blend, and if my back will be cold with all those little holes. And I think about how I'll knit that leaf pattern, and if I've seen anything like that before. Every so often, I'll put my needles down and do some searching online, before I go back to my herringbone stitches and muse some more...

The other project I've been thinking about is this red crochet top I saw on Pinterest a few months ago (darn you Pinterest, I have STUFF TO DO!):

It comes from (and is sold out, by the way), but ever since I saw it, I felt pretty sure I could make it myself using this yarn I've have in my stash for a while:

My problem is that I have never been really good with my crochet gauge, and I haven't a clue how I'd make sure that top would fit. I'm only half-and-half about how it is constructed, despite lots and lots of reading and searching... so the never-ending herringbone stitch makes for good musing time. And if anyone has a lead for me as to how I could make that thing, that would be AWESOME, because it's sort of driving me crazy.

Project ideas driving me crazy? Unheard of. Pshaw.

And so, I knit on, musing, thinking, dreaming... Here's to hoping this whole thing will be fruitful in one way or another.

Give a knitter a fish, and maybe they'll make a sweater. Heh.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Inspiration Mondays: I Want To Meet Her When She Grows Up

And though thou seemst a weedling wild --
Wild and neglected like to me --
Thou still art dear to nature's child
And I will stoop to notice thee.
-- From To An Insignificant Flower Blooming in a Lonely Wild, in Flower Poems by John Clare
Years ago, I was a teacher. One year, I taught a Reception class in London, England (akin to kindergarten/first grade in North America). In the class next door was a little girl who was often angry, would often lash out, kick, scream, cry. The others avoided her. Nobody wanted to play with Lauren.

Then I found out that she was the youngest of several children. One day, her parents decided they would move, and that they would take all of their children, except for the youngest one...

And they left Lauren behind for the authorities to look after her. No wonder she was so angry.

One day, I spent a whole lunch hour in Lauren's classroom to give her teacher a break. Lauren was under a desk, and would not come out. I went and sat on the desk and ignored her. She reached her legs out and kicked me, over and over and over, as hard as she could. I took it, because I could, and because I knew she needed to kick someone, a big person, like the ones who had let her down. And when she came out, she hugged my legs and cried.

I often think of Lauren, and all of the other troubled/spirited/difficult children I've met throughout the years. I wonder where they are, how they'e fared, if anyone has ever taken the time to understand them. I want to see her, find out who she is now. She'd be nineteen years old now. A young woman.

Yesterday, I read this post by the mother of a girl named Boheme. She is a "spirited child," and while she is in no way in the same situation emotionally as Lauren was, all I could think was, "I want to meet her when she's grown up."

It's these difficult, often brushed aside people that attract me... complex minds that are often never explored, and make me wonder what goes on behind their eyes. I want to see who they become and who else they attract. Lauren was troubled, but she was... I dunno... there was a light to her... moonlight behind those big, brown eyes.

Perhaps this is why I have always preferred wildflowers over the hothouse flowers... the inexpensive carnations over the orchids, and the sunflowers over the roses. They last in a bouquet for ages, and each day I look at them, I notice something different. My mother knows this about me: and this is the bouquet she sent me for my birthday this weekend:

They remind me of Lauren. And now of Boheme... and of Jody, and Burak, Rebecca, Daniella, Lorena... all of those children I wish I knew now that they have grown up. I hope you are inspiring the world, all of you. You inspired me to keep looking behind the actions to the soul beneath.

Grow well, my flowers...

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Daydreams of a Pack Mule

My job sometimes requires me to travel to deliver documents in person, a courier of sorts. These documents are ones that usually are of too much value to trust to a commercial courier, or require delivery on a tighter deadline than a courier can afford us. Next day delivery doesn't always happen when you live on an island.

Enter me: the Flying Pack Mule.

I do enough traveling that I don't mind the disrupted schedules and having to haul luggage here and there. I was actually pretty relaxed, because when people travel for our company, there is a whole team of people looking out for you in the background, just in case things go wrong.

So, the other day, when my first flight off the Island was grounded due to mechanical failure, I sat back and thought, "Well, at least I'm not in this on my own."

"Team Travel" at work got me onto a float plane to the mainland: my first float plane flight ever. The hubby, who is an amateur pilot, was jealous, and he should have been: it was the most peaceful, relaxing flight I'd ever been on. I was too excited (and maybe a little embarrassed) to take photos of the lounge, but it was full of comfy leather armchairs, with free muffins, tea and coffee. So civilized.

In the air, I delighted in the scenery. It was a quiet, 15-minute flight that I shared with three other passengers and the pilot. I saw a pod of porpoises, but I wasn't quick enough to catch a photo of them.

After I landed, I took the shuttle to the main airport in Vancouver, gulped down a large cafe misto, went through security, and boarded another plane. As I stood in line to board, I was distracted by a lady wearing a beautiful knit sweater: camel-coloured, knit plainly on the front, but with a cable and lace pattern down the back, in a bulky or aran-weight yarn. I stared openly as we shuffled along, trying to memorize it, and fighting with all my might not to take out my phone and take photos of it. There are certain behaviours one must keep under control in an airport...

In the air, I settled back for the 75-minute flight, enjoyed my free pretzels and a glass of tomato juice, dozed a bit, then got ready to get out as the plane landed. In the airport, I bought a big bottle of water, then got into a taxi. As the taxi pulled away, my phone rang.

"Adriene, you have to come back. The deadline for those documents has been extended, and the bosses don't want them to be submitted."

So, I sighed, and the taxi took me around the block, and I walked back into the airport, downed the large bottle of water before going back through security and got onto another plane. By this point, I was feeling pretty tired - I'd been up since 5:45am. And when I get tired, I get weird. And by weird, I mean that the line between the things said in my brain and the things I say aloud gets a little blurred. "I.D. Where's my I.D.?" I uttered. "I don't mind flying," I said, to no one in particular as I sat down. I glanced at the girl sitting next to me. She looked away. I sat down and buckled my seat belt.

In my weary state, I found myself gazing at the screen on the back of the seat in front of me and reading out the ad that flashed past, "Popcorners: the new shape of popcorn." I noticed the girl next to me trying to avert her eyes from my weirdness. It was then I decided I better close my eyes and try to rest.

I sat there and day/sleepdreamed about the sweater I'd seen earlier. It was a daydream that kept me going for the rest of the taxi trips and through the ferry trip I had to take the rest of the way home (the flights to the Island were full due to the mechanical failure of the first plane earlier that day). I'm still dreaming of this sweater, and I still haven't figured out how it was made. I wish I'd been brave enough to take a photo of it. So far, the closest I've seen through my searches was a bolero pattern by Kitman Figueroa offered free on Jimmy Beans Wool. If I took this pattern and flipped it 90 degrees and knit it into the back of a sweater, it would be close, but the lacy part is a bit too complex compared to what I'd seen that day...

I'm going to keep searching, and maybe I'll be lucky enough to find the actual sweater I saw. In the meantime, I'm booked to go back on the same trip next week. Perhaps this trip will be slightly less eventful, but maybe uneventful is not the way to go. After all, what would I have to talk about in this blog?

Till then, this is Pack Mule, signing off...

Monday, November 11, 2013

Inspiration Mondays: To Remember

Rememberance Day 2013.

I struggled a lot with what to write today. Am I inspired today? I am looking around at the news, and around at the people around me, the town I live in, wondering... wondering...

I think today, I will remember that:

  • how people respond to the great wrongs in the world is personal and comes from deep within. You may not agree with it, but you can respect it.
  • the reality for many people on this Earth is still one of war, intimidation, and suffering.
  • my daily life is the equivalent to paradise to many, many people. I will not take it for granted, and I will not forget what it took, nor what it continually takes to have it.
  • speaking your opinion on the internet is not the same as casting a vote, donating a dollar, or giving your time and energy. It is my belief that those three actions are some of the strongest actions you can do to make change happen.

Remember, honour, give, serve, be grateful, say please and thank you to those that have done things for you. That is all.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Flicky Farrah Fawcett Hair, and a New Sweater

It seems like a very, very long time since I have finished a knitted garment larger than... well, one stitch. My knitting momentum swings back and forth depending on the week and how busy life gets. Since the weather turned cooler, my stitch inspiration seems to be back. I'm glad to show you my newest finished object that I call Sweater Girl, based on a pattern from called Margot, by Linden Down. It is knit with a discontinued yarn from Elsbeth Lavold called AL, a merino/alpaca blend. I dreamed this sweater up as soon as I saw the yarn in the bargain basket at Knit and Caboodle during my last trip to Canmore. It feels good to finally see it in real life:

I mostly knit it from the instructions, except I did one more decrease for the waist (and subsequently, one more increase for the hips), and I think I added more length to the torso, but it took me so long to knit this that I can't really remember now. My intention was to make it with long sleeves, but I realized about halfway through that I didn't have enough of the camel-coloured yarn to continue the stripe pattern for them. And well, that's the problem with knitting with discontinued yarns: it's WAY more of a headache to try and get more. That's when I made the decision to go on a button hunt to make the short-sleeve version a touch more interesting. I'm quite happy with the result, especially when I discovered how warm this sweater was while walking up the hill to the gym this morning. Those sheep and alpacas really warm up when you put them together...

With leggings and tall boots in style right now, as soon as I put this outfit on, I felt a little... I dunno, retro? The flicky Farrah Fawcett-thing my hair is doing at the moment isn't helping. Still, it's a flattering silhouette, perfect for one of Charlie's Angels to fight crime in, and therefore good enough for me. I'm happy to know the sweater fits. I was a little worried that, with such a long hiatus from knitting garments, my obsession with knack for a good fit had left me, but it seems that it hasn't, at least not for this project.

I tried to strategically place the stripes so that the smaller parts of my otherwise straight figure could look smaller, and so that I could highlight the bust and hip region to give the illusion of more of an hourglass look. Nothing will replace the lack of hips, but carefully placed stripes help.

I'm thinking that this sweater is going to get a lot of good wear this winter. This pattern also might have the very rare distinction of being knit again someday in the future. Stockinette stitch, knit from the top down with garter stitch accents... the sweater practically fell from the needles, it was so easy.

Well, sorta. It fell in a slow-motion, take-way-longer-than-normal kind of way.

I'm off to join the other angels for a meeting with Charlie now. Later, y'all.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Inspiration Mondays: Slower Feet

When we walk like (we are running), we print anxiety and sorrow on the earth. We have to walk in a way that we only print peace and serenity on the earth... Be aware of the contact between your feet and the earth. Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet. - Thich Nhat Hanh
I've been struggling with my feet over the past few weeks. I've had difficulties with plantar facsciitis on and off over the years, and it looks like it's back. That means I spend a lot of time stretching and massaging my calves and my feet in the evenings. Most of the time, I work through it. I keep running, I keep wearing my heels at work, and I keep on trucking, rushing about, getting things done.

Such are the toils and troubles of a person who wants to get crap done all the time, and wear cute shoes whilst doing so.

I had a rare day to myself yesterday, and I immediately starting filling it with plans to make things: wind some yarn, bake some scones, clean the bathrooms, do the laundry... and I caught myself in the midst of this over-achieving mess and said, "Dude, you need to just chill." That's hard for me. But I made up my mind that I was NOT going to pack the day full of things that "needed to get done."

That meant:

  • I did not get up at 6:00am.
  • I ran 8k instead of 10k.
  • I pawed through my yarn stash and daydreamed about what I'd make next.
  • I made some tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich on my homemade bread. That doesn't sound very relaxing, but man it was good.
  • I napped.
  • I made blackberry scones. I ate two.
  • I read a magazine on a bench while Rascal sunbathed.
  • I came home and stretched.
  • I soaked my feet, scrubbed with with peppermint scrub, and massaged them with peppermint lotion, then sat and looked at my feet for an inordinate amount of time.

My feet carry me everywhere. They've carried me when I was extra heavy, both physically and emotionally. They've worn vastly inappropriate shoes and danced in them for hours. They've taken me to weddings and funerals, and to work and back home, to hospitals, offices, banks... but I've never though much about how I walk in them, and what it does for me, nor the Earth I walk upon.

And maybe if I just slow down a bit and rest, release some of the tension, the pain I feel in them right now will go away, and I will not only feel relaxed, but a bit more at peace. And others might feel that, too.

Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet. Pucker up, Earth. Here I come...

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Button Search

You never know when a button might come in handy. Sometimes though, great abundance can really set you back. Buttons, buttons everywhere, but none of them quite right...

I'm slowly inching my way to finishing my current sweater project, but I decided a few weeks ago that I wanted to knit a couple of cuffs on the sleeves and sew a couple of buttons on for accents. I spent an hour digging through my button jar, only to resign myself to the fact that none of them were quite right. If you're going to sew a button on, it might as well be the right button... right?

Luckily, I've discovered there is no end of wee vintage shops and antique malls here. That means that the probability of  finding the perfect button is high. Used, vintage buttons are my favourite. A couple of weekends ago, we made a trip to a nearby village that happens to have several vintage shops. I was determined that I would come home with the buttons I needed that day, come what may...

I have two shopping styles depending on who is with me on the day: shopping-with-hubby-mode entails a quick duck into a shop, frantic scanning with my eyes, hurried questions with the shopkeeper, and a quick exit. Not that the hubby is pushy or impatient, mind you. I just don't like to keep people waiting. The other style is quick-once-over-and-slow-second-scan, which I only do when I am on my own. That is a rare circumstance, but this is my preferred shopping style for vintage shops.

Having the hubby and the Rascal in tow meant I needed to think carefully about how I was going to keep my button-finding mission on track. First step: let the Rascal meet and greet his worshippers. We got into the town and immediately got Rascal on his leash so we could wander around for half an hour, through the town and down to the park and back, with people greeting and petting His Highness the entire time. I'm sure he believes the rest of the world ventures outdoors only to meet him. And maybe they do, I don't know for sure.

Second step: lunch. A stop in a popular cafe, a bowl of squash soup and a drop cheese scone for me, a bowl of split pea and ham soup and a blt for the hubby. Everyone is fed, everyone has run about for a bit. And that means the stop in the antique mall is way more fun for all (except for Rascal, who had to wait in the car, but I swear he waves at people from in there when we're not watching).

The antique mall is large enough for the hubby to wander around and find interesting things while I putter about, picking through baskets and shelves. My button mission was sidetracked momentarily by this little Corningware bowl, which I decided needed to come home with me and become my lunch bowl at work. Isn't it pretty?

Then, the button hunt began in earnest. I eventually brought home three batches of autumn-coloured buttons to audition for the sweater:

The winners? The green ones up front, which are the perfect size, a great colour, and beautiful to boot. I only need two, but the three leftover will find a use sometime. The rest will join the others in the button jar. I hope they don't languish in there for too long, though I'd hate to get rid of them. You never know when a button might come in handy...

Which is sort of what got me into this mess in the first place, isn't it?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Inspiration Mondays: Girlie Boost

Having skipped out on blogging at all last week, I feel a bit like I cut class in high school. (For the record, I NEVER cut class in high school, in case you're reading this, mom.) This blog is about 80% fun and 20% work, but sometimes that 20% is enough to tip me from "procrastination" to "whiny defiance." And reading stuff written with that kind of attitude on is just no fun for anyone.

I had a long work week last week, pulled a lot of long days, and add my normal workout/evening chores/dog walking and stretching routine, I was pretty much left with nothin'. I reached the weekend needing a little fresh air and a change of scenery.

I was lucky enough to have a trip to Victoria planned. It was an exciting prospect, but I was a bit worried it would be too much for me after such a busy week. It turns out the change of scenery was just what I needed.

I was traveling without the hubby and the Rascal, and that always means I get to have more girlie time to myself: more time to linger in shops, more time to muse over cups of tea, more time to gaze at window displays. In another life, I think I would have been a window-dresser... though I think I probably would have made no money in it.

Anyway, a girlie boost was what I needed for a bit of inspiration and a bit of reset. Here are a few sights that just freshened things up a bit for me. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

My Super Power of Choice

If I had a super power, I would want either:
  • the ability to teleport to any destination
  • the ability understand how something was made at a glance
  • the ability to iron a shirt with a snap of my fingers
I'm not that ambitious, as you can see.

Anyway, it is probably not such a huge surprise that I love clothes, both making and wearing them, and I am constantly inspired by photos in magazines and online. I have a couple of Pinterest boards full of things I think I could hack, skirts, sweaters, dresses... I have many, many photos on my phone of knit and crochet garments taken surreptitiously on retail store floors. That's not so bad, I think.

The problem is that inspiration strikes me in inconvenient places and at inconvenient times, and it consumes me for several days afterward. I see something that inspires me, and the knit-scan kicks in.

I once watched an entire movie wondering if I had the right kind of yarn to make a hat one of the characters was wearing.

I once followed a baby around around a museum who was wearing a cute little knit dress so I could figure out how it was made.

I have walked the same block five times to pass by the same window that had a dummy wearing a cute knit sweater. It wasn't even a clothing store. I think they sold second hand furniture in there...

I try to rein it in as much as possible, but I never know when I'm going to be distracted again. It would be so much more convenient if I could just see it and know immediately how it went together.

I was at work one day last week, sitting with someone in a meeting, when a co-worker stuck her head in the room and asked a question. This girl knows a great sweater: I have admired her outfits more than once. This one was cause for me to start sketching in my notebook immediately. It was a good thing the question wasn't directed towards me, otherwise I guess that would have been kind of rude...

Since then, I've seen her wear it a few more times, and each time, I sit down and draw it again. It is a sweater knit in a loose gauge; a thin yarn (I'd bet DK weight) knit with large needles (I think a size 9 or 10). She wore it over a tank top or a camisole. The yarn had a halo, like a wispy mohair sweater, and it was light grey, almost silver. It had a large, drapey, cowl or funnel neckline that could nearly be worn as a hood if you wanted. It had a kangaroo pocket on the front. It is boxy in shape, worn loose and baggy, with "short" sleeves that are actually drapey enough to nearly reach her elbows. I've even looked at it carefully enough to see where the seams are: there are shoulder and side seams, and two diagonal seams on the front, which I'm thinking might be sewn in to give the sweater some structure.

Days later, the scan was complete, and my brain finally let it go.

I've decided I'm going to attempt to make this sweater with some Lion Brand Amazing yarn that I've had in the stash for a few years now. This yarn has a gentle colour-change effect from dark smoke blue to pale, airy green, to pale, silvery blue. If anything, it should be interesting. If only that super power would just kick in: then I'd know for sure if it was going to work out.

Oh man, if I had a super power, I'd totally get a superhero outfit. I better start planning that out...