Monday, March 28, 2016

Inspiration Mondays: Luck, Serendipity, and Sheep Magazines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 26, 2016


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then a batch of blueberry scones:

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

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

So much for ordinary.

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

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

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

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

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Kettle and Couch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yarn people are like that, you know.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 14, 2016

Inspiration Mondays: Knit Chemist

The chemists are a strange class of mortals, impelled by an almost insane impulse to seek their pleasures amid smoke and vapor, soot and flame, poisons and poverty; yet among all these evils I seem to live so sweetly that may I die if I were to change places with the Persian king. -- Johan Joachim Becher
A couple of years ago, while browsing through a display at Olds Fibre Festival, I came upon this skein of yarn, and was so entranced by it that I just had to have it. I remember gushing to the lady who sold it to me, telling her how much I loved this rich, deep, lovely purple.

"Did you know that purple dye is what turned chemistry from a practice of magicians into a real science?" she said.

No, I didn't know that.

"Before anyone synthesized a chemical dye to make the colour purple, you had to collect thousands of snails and then process them for three days until you got purple," she said. "That's why it was only kings and queens that wore it. Once someone figured out how to make it in a lab, people really took chemistry seriously."

I took her word for it, but it was only a few days ago that I really did a little bit of research on it. From The Human Touch of Chemistry website, I learned:
In 1909, Paul Friedlander discovered the chemical structure of Tyrian Purple (now called 6,6-dibromoindigo). But by then, the nature of the dye industry had completely changed. New dyes were now being made from the by-products of coal extraction. The first of these was mauveine, synthesised by the British chemist William Henry Perkin from coal tar in 1856. As these dyes were cheaper and offered a wider range of colours, the need for natural dyes disappeared.
While there's a movement in textiles to get back to natural dyes, I'm amazed at what a little colour did to advance the science of chemistry. I wonder what it was like for someone to make purple dye themselves after seeing it as a colour for the rich and privileged. I imagine it to have been like turning lead into gold...

True magic.

Today, I am inspired by the spirit of chemistry: indeed, the spirit of science itself, where you have to be willing to be brave enough to try to prove an idea, even with a chance of failure. It's very much like being an artist: a painter, a song-writer, a knitter. You have to be happy enough to get elbow-deep in mistakes before you come up with a treasure that most people never believed possible. It takes a lot more courage than you think.

Imagine all the beautiful things you could come up with if you could put your ego away for a while and truly experiment.

I think I'll call myself a knit-chemist for a while. I might dig out my old lab coat and sit with my yarn, too. I might not make any huge discoveries, but it'll be a privilege to group myself with some real chemists, even if I'm only pretending.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Rainyday Glamour

Sometimes, I wonder if I should put some time and effort together to put together a better set up for taking photos of finished projects. I look through some of the beautiful, glamorous shots people have of themselves in their projects on Ravelry, and I am envious. Most of the time, I struggle along, balancing things on window sills, tilting my tripod, or craning my arm to take a selfie on my phone. It makes me wonder if I should just go and get a selfie stick.

Yeah, I just wrote "self stick". I don't know what this world is coming to.

It's always difficult to get photos of a project on a rainy day. The lack of natural light makes it so difficult to capture colours and textures without over-exposing or over-saturating them. Half the time, I feel like I'm standing in a shoebox, trying to peek over the top into the light.

So, with that in mind, here's my latest finished project: Bloomsbury, by Svetlana Volkova:

I am truly amazed by this sweater. I never would have believed that I could knit a sweater for myself with only 880 yards of yarn, but the balance of the large gauge combined with the lace panel worked out perfectly. Using the large needles meant that I needed less yarn, and the lace makes it light enough to ensure that it hangs properly without any of the large stitches gaping open:

My initial problems with my own gauge means that the neckline is a little wide. I didn't like the look of the thick ribbing at the neckline, so I had attempted to make it thinner and more delicate, but having cast on for the a size too large at the beginning means that there isn't much fabric to hang on to the neck:

But it's the back that is the star of this sweater. It is so, so clever. I just hope my back doesn't get cold:

Here's an attempt at a glamorous back shot... in the dark: 

I might try to photograph this thing again on a brighter day, but I was just so eager to wear it that I just couldn't wait. It's a great sweater for a rainy day: not so snug that I am going to sweat, but not so light that I'm going to get a chill.

And, over everything else, I feel triumphant that, for once, I did not run out of yarn. That alone is worth shouting from the rooftops. Except I won't... because it's raining, and it's obnoxious.

I'm switching gears to knit something lighter next. I'm thinking about knitting a shawl to wear for a wedding this summer. I figure that, if I don't start now, I'll be scrambling to get it done right before I need it. That's the kind of drama I could live without right now. I'm busy trying to find a pattern that will work, so in the meantime...

I thought I'd knit a new bathmat:

All glamour, all the time. That's me. Move over, Kardashians. There's a new bathmat coming online soon.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Inspiration Mondays: Jeans That Will Probably Fit

Learn more while you're working. If you don't know how to do something, either stay longer or figure out how to do it. -- Chris Ellsberg, Raleigh Denim Workshop

I think I'm becoming a bit of a curmudgeon as I get older. I find myself watching people younger than me coming into my place of work and saying, "They didn't do it like that when I was that age." Huff puff. Ho ho.

I'm not sure I like it.

I suppose part of it is that I am such a lover of knowing how to do this the long way that I get annoyed when people automatically jump to the short cut. Lots of things today are about finding the quickest and easiest way to get around the old way of doing things. I think it's important to know how you get the shortcuts so that, when the shortcut breaks (because it ALWAYS does), you have a way to get around it.

And more than that: I'm getting a bit tired of having to go and fix problems that are created when someone lacks the understanding of the big picture... the ENTIRE job, instead of just understanding the single task. Why only know how to turn on the sprinklers when what you want to do is grow a garden? And really, we're living in a world right now where, if you want to learn how to do something, the information is right out there at your fingertips.

Stay longer, or figure out how to do it.

I watched this video a little while ago, and it delights me. I like that there is someone out there who knows how to draft and cut a pattern for a pair of jeans by hand, and who understands why it's important to know how to do it that way. And I can't help but think that I might like a pair of those someday. Goodness knows I can't find a pair that fits me properly right now.

Today, I'm inspired by people who recognize the value of knowing the beginning, middle, and end of things. Y'all are my people. Thanks for being so good at figuring sh*t out.

My Home, NC: The Last Patternmaker

"I believe I am the last patternmaker who still knows how to do things by hand." - Chris Ellsberg, Raleigh Denim WorkshopGo behind the scenes of a homegrown jeans maker with My Home, NC for a heartwarming introduction to the 82-year-old expert patternmaker who still has a lot to teach the clothing industry.

Posted by UNC-TV on Thursday, February 25, 2016

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Marooned For a Weekend

“Nights and days came and passed
And summer and winter
and the rain.
And it was good to be a little Island.
A part of the world
and a world of its own
All surrounded by the bright blue sea.”
― Margaret Wise Brown, The Little Island
I live on an island, but it is large enough that I often forget that it is indeed a mass of land separate from the larger masses we call countries and continents. Our day-to-day speech reminds us mentally that we are separate: "He lives on the mainland..." "You can only get them here on the island..." "I'll need to book a flight on the float plane to meet you there..."

And yet... I don't really feel that separate most of the time.

This weekend, though, we went and visited one of the smaller islands off the northeast coast from here: Quadra Island, one of the Discovery Islands, still larger than a lot of the others around here, but a surprising world apart from where we live. It's the first time I felt kind of "marooned."

It wasn't such a bad place to be marooned, though:

It's been a stormy few weeks in these parts, and, as a person who likes to go for walks, I was prepared to get wet. When we arrived on Friday afternoon, we climbed out of the car after our long drive and ferry ride, eager to get some fresh air an exercise. We found a trail that took us up to Heriot Ridge and got some lovely views:

It was a soggy, soggy hike, though. I am not much of a mountain goat, and wet stones covered by moss are not what I call easy footing, and a lot of the trails had turned into creeks with all of the rain. I stopped to tighten my shoelaces and found this little roughskinned newt at my feet. He was cute: about the length of my middle finger. It's never a good idea to touch amphibians, though. I looked him up later and found out he's quite a poisonous little cutie:

At a later stop to get our bearings, I saw this banana slug... which is a pretty rotten-looking banana, but a pretty neat slug:

We got back to our hotel and took off our soggy shoes and socks, had a delicious dinner, and then went to sleep.

We awoke to this:

And we went out later to enjoy the sunshine, even if it was still somewhat stormy. We noticed that no one was taking advantage of the putting green. Must have been a bit mushy out there:

We thought we'd try a less mountainous trail, but somehow ended up wading through creeks and mushy moss. While negotiating another path, I heard a thumping noise and looked up to see this pileated woodpecker. I had a hard time taking a photo: he kept circling the tree as he worked away:

Slower game was easier to photograph. This banana slug was nice enough to pose in full profile:

We had planned to walk all the way to the beach, but I was getting fed up of having wet feet, so we stopped at this viewpoint before turning around:

We drove a little further south and was able to find a nice, easy trail straight to the beach:

I love the look of driftwood:

This bee seemed to be taking a break here:

But the storms were coming again:

So we headed back into the town and found some lunch and browsed some shops. By then, the sun made another appearance. I was ready for a nap, but the hubby convinced me to go find this lighthouse. It looked exactly as a lighthouse ought to, at least in my brain:

And the beach right below was lovely... even though we couldn't really hang out there because the lighthouse fog horn can sound unexpectedly, and can be so loud that it can damage your hearing. Good for the boats, bad for my ears:

This morning, I pulled out my current sweater project and laid it out to inspect its progress. It has been working up amazingly quickly, considering that I've only really been working on it on the weekends. Big needles and large gauge will do that, I suppose, but I'm a little worried about how it will hang. I hope those big stitches won't gape while it hangs off my shoulders, but I figure that there have been enough people who have made it successfully on Ravelry that I needn't worry:

Besides, who can worry when you have such beautiful stitches to work on?

And if that doesn't soothe you, what about a breakfast of Banana Foster's French Toast? That'll do fix anything, I reckon. Problem is, as tasty as it was at the time, now that I've been thinking of it, those bananas do kind of remind me of the slugs I saw all over the place:

Hmmm... I hope that doesn't put me off bananas now. Geez. This is where imagination fails me...

Ahem, I think I'll go knit now...