Sunday, April 23, 2017

My Finger Says it All

There is only a finger's difference between a wise man and a fool. --Diogenes
I've had a bit of a funny weekend... and when I say "funny," I don't mean "haha" funny, more like, "just what the heck is going on" kind of funny.

I had been looking forward to a yoga retreat I had signed up for weeks ago. It was supposed to be a one-day retreat on Saturday, and I'd been watching the calendar closely, counting down the days. On Friday morning, I got a call from the organizers to say it was cancelled due to low registration. I'd already had a few disappointments that day, so it was quite a blow. Not everyone looks forward to seven hours of yoga and meditation, but I'd been really depending on it for a bit of peace in a stressful time.

In some ways, it was a bit of a blessing in that I usually have a bunch of things I like to get done over the weekend: grocery shopping, cleaning, meal prep for the week, and most importantly, napping. I'm a grump when I don't get my weekend naps. It was a bit of a gift to get a day back to get to do all of those things.

We decided to do a bit of garden work in between all of the rain we'd been having. I have such a habit of just diving in with my bare hands and pulling, picking, digging away until my fingernails are caked with black dirt. After I'd finished, I came in and carefully cleaned under each fingernail. I poked under one a bit too hard and it stung a bit, so I carefully cleaned it, not wanting to get an infection...

After that, I really wanted to try adjusting the Oatmeal Soda Bread recipe I've been using to create sandwich-sized buns instead of one round loaf. It took a little cutting and rolling and shaping, but I'm pleased to say it was a success. It was such a triumph to remove them from the oven and to see them nestled in there like eggs in a basket:

And even more satisfying to slide them out of the pan to cool:

I felt pretty good about myself, so I went ahead and reworked a sweet potato cottage pie recipe I wanted to make for my lunch. I had a bit of inspiration to cut the sweet potatoes with my mandolin into thin slices and lay them over top to save me from cooking and mashing them. As I sliced them, I stopped to put the guard on so I wouldn't slice my hands up. Safety first, after all. I was feeling pretty clever by this point...

... until I decided I'd try to slice the rest of the leftover potato on its round edge with a knife... which then slipped and sliced deeply across the tip of my fingers. I gasped in shock, went straight over to the sink where I rinsed it, declaring that I needed to go to the hospital. I was in that stage of knowing I needed to look at it, but not wanting to... and then I looked at it, and wished I hadn't because I'd cut it quite deeply...

I went up to the health unit, which is a tiny little place where I live, and the nurse in triage was a lady I used to play volleyball with until the league broke up. She tried to engage me in v-ball talk, but I was oddly uninterested/bleeding through my paper towel. Luckily, I only had to wait a few minutes before a man named Doctor Broccoli (no joke) called my name and took me in. I thought I'd need stitches and would be told not to do anything strenuous for a week. Instead, he looked at it and declared kindly that it only needed a bit of skin glue and a bandage, and that it would probably take about three days to heal. It was quite numb by this point, so it didn't hurt when he cleaned it and applied the glue. "It's the kindergarten treatment," he said. "Tape and glue. Fixes everything."

Here's what my finger thinks of that:

I came home and took a nap. I tried to knit, but it turns out that I use my middle finger a lot more than I thought I did. After I noticed some blood on my needles, I figured it was time to give it up for a while. No use bleeding over my pretty yarn.  And typing this blogpost is taking me a lot longer than I imagined it would. I never thought I would miss my left middle finger so much.

Luckily, I do have a finished object to share: my modified Millay Jacket. I was having such a hard time getting a good angle to take a photo of it on (I'm seriously considering buying myself a selfie stick), so I hung it on a hanger to get a full frontal (heh):

Since I only had 600 yards to play with, it doesn't really close in the front, but the llama/bamboo blend allowed it to block really well and drape quite nicely when on:

I did elect to put the waist-stay in after all, but I think I put it in too low. It does sort of look like a low-waisted belt, which I'm not sure I like. But it is wearable. I'm not sure how much I like it, but maybe it'll grow on me:

Since I can't knit right now, I guess I'll go and sit on my yoga mat and try not to feel too sorry for myself for the rest of the night. Or maybe I will enjoy a cuppa from my new handbuilt teacup that I bought from Westholme Tea Farm last week:

Either way, here's hoping my middle finger heals up quickly so I can resume all middle-finger-related activities. Have a good week!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Motivation, Not Here

May you becomethe gracious and passionate subject of your own life.May you not disrespect your mysterythrough brittle words of false belonging. -- John O'Donahue
The trouble is: I don't have much motivation for anything right now.

That is the best way I could think of to start this blog post today. I've been dragging my feet with all things outside of work these days, and here I am, on a Sunday afternoon, procrastinating, trying to write something of substance in this post. I did open Blogger up, and then starting reading through some of my previous posts from a couple of years ago, getting lost in nostalgia, and remembering things I'd long forgotten. Who is that person, anyway?

It's been a relentless push at work these past few weeks. I can't really remember a lot of it, but it has felt like that episode from I Love Lucy where she gets a job at the chocolate factory and can't keep up with the flow of chocolate down the conveyor belt...

Except my work does not involve chocolate, nor was it nearly as amusing.

The light at the end of the tunnel is starting to get a bit brighter, in that we've got some new staff coming on next week. I think the current flow of tasks is slowing down a bit since we're stalled by the lack of movement from the client. A couple of us took the opportunity to just sit down and stare dumbly at our desks on Friday, waiting for the clock to tick down towards the weekend. I'm hoping that we're cresting a hill right now and that the work life is just about to back off to let me live my personal life again.

The hubby and I bought a new bed, and it was delivered on Friday. Needless to say, I have taken every opportunity to justify the purchase. I was feeling pretty run down this morning, so I took some extra time to lie in bed and doze for a while, before flopping over onto my back to watch a few silly YouTube videos on the tablet.

Wait. This is a blog about creativity and stuff. Better think of something creative... Here's a quick food shot from dinner tonight:

Oddly, despite my lack of motivation these days, my current knitting project is coming along in leaps and bounds. It's a modified version of the Millay Jacket, and I'm attempting to knit it from the top-down, purely because I'm not sure I have enough yarn for it. Each time I pick it up to knit a few rows, it seems to fly off my needles, and I'm pretty sure that, at this rate, I could be blocking this thing by next weekend.

The original pattern construction is worked firstly from the waist up, all the way to the neckline, then you're supposed to pick up stitches from the cast-on edge and then knit downward to the bottom. This creates a waist stay, which is supposed to add some stability to the garment and to make the waist STAY in place, rather than riding up or floating off. I'm debating whether or not I will create my own waist stay by casting off at the waist and then picking up the stitches again. I'm sort of dubious as to whether or not it will make a difference. I'm really just knitting along until I reach the waist, and then, well... we'll see what I feel like doing then.

Given that I don't even know what I feel like doing now, trying to predict what I'll feel like in a week is pretty much out of the question.

It looks so tiny lying there, but it's doing the annoying thing that lace does by squeezing itself together so that it looks like nothing more than a crumpled fishing net. It is quite lovely when it is stretched out, as I tried to show here:

In spite of my melancholy, spring is doing its best to peek around the corner at me. The cherry blossoms are trying to burst into bloom, and today was beautifully sunny if not all that warm. And, in spite of my lack of motivation, every so often, a hankering to knit a super-complicated lace shawl pops up. Maybe that'll be just the ticket.

You know what else would be just the ticket? Some ice cream. Have a nice Sunday, all.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Confidence, Arrogance, and a Sweater

Do not let arrogance go to your head and despair to your heart; do not let compliments go to your head and criticisms to your heart; do not let success go to your head and failure to your heart.― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart
I had a strange realization the other that I've been at this knitting thing for a while now. I had a Facebook memory pop up for me from eight years ago, and well... it was a photo of one of my first handknit sweaters. Eight years??? Haven't I only been at this for two or three? Am I not still a newbie? Granted, I learned to crochet when I was a little girl... we won't talk about how long ago that was. Still, it was a shock.

As an aside: I never quite understood why the gods of Facebook decided that the "memory" feature wasn't immediately available to all users. I was sorta jealous when I saw I didn't have that feature before, but now that I have it, it's not all that great. So far, I've been getting a lot of photos of my Rascal, and that just makes me feel so sad and lonely. I miss my little doggie boy so, so much. I don't like to talk about it that often, but it hurts as much now as it did when I first lost him.

Sigh. Memories are double-edged, I guess.

I finally finished my latest sweater project late last Sunday. I was sailing along with it on Saturday night, perfectly confident that I would be finished and have it in the water for blocking before I went to bed, except... well, you know... sometimes confidence is just arrogance in disguise.

This sweater is based on a Red Heart pattern by Lorna Miser called Big Comfy Sweater, which is probably the best name for a sweater pattern you could ever have. It actually was brought to my attention by someone who visited my YouTube channel to watch one of my help videos and who messaged me with some questions. I decided right then and there that I would make it, but with some modifications (because, of course, Adriene is not knitting if she is not modifying the pattern).

I decided to knit it at a tighter gauge, because I wasn't sure such a long sweater would hold up so well with the looser gauge suggested in the pattern. I also talked it over my with my friend Linette, and decided that the ribbing on the upper half of the sweater should start above my bust to be more flattering (more "what a nice sweater", instead of "hey, have you seen these boobs?"). The pattern is written for knitting the sweater in two pieces, front and back, and then it is seamed along the sides and shoulders. I decided I'd knit the ribbing at the bottom in two pieces, and then join them to knit the body of the sweater in the round.

The original pattern didn't add any waist shaping, but I got nervous as I worked on it that it was going to turn out to be a big, unflattering, unwearable sack. I kept on, though, and when I reached the armpits, I stuck a ruler along my arm and arbitrarily chose a length I thought would work. I worked out how many stitches I'd need and cast on accordingly, using a crochet provisional stitch (sorry, I didn't take any photos of that) so that I could knit to the top of each shoulder and then pick out the crochet holder and pick up the live stitches for the other side of each sleeve. The big finish was to do a three-needle bind off, effectively eliminating any need for seaming throughout the whole project. Clever me.

What do they say about "best laid plans?"

It all went upside-down when I decided that I didn't want boxy sleeves on my already-boxy sweater. I lay in bed one night and worked out how to taper each sleeve by working short rows that would make the sleeves more fitted. And it was a good idea... until I decided I'd ignore all the rules about how to knit short rows properly. You're supposed to wrap the stitches in such a manner that it would prevent holes, but all that malarkey always throws my stitch count out, so in my great wisdom, I decided that I, the great Adriene, would not be afflicted with holes my knitting as other mere mortals are.

Yeah... about that...

It was all looking great until I was ready to join the shoulders with the three-needle bind off. I started working my way across, but each time I reached the end of one of the short rows, I would knit the bind off and, wouldn't ya know it. A hole. Big ones.

I made this face:

Then, I sat back and did some thinking. I tried fiddling with the short rows, but that was just making everything worse. In the end, I sighed, pulled out my darning needles, and started seaming the shoulders using a Kitchener stitch. So much for avoiding the seams.

I still had to mess about with the short rows to try to hide the gaps. I think I did a pretty ok job, and other people will probably not even notice. Perhaps after I wear it for a while, I won't notice either.

Who am I kidding? I notice all the mistakes in my knitting.

But, once I finished it all up and tried it on, I was amazed. The shapeless, boxy sweater was lovely: very comfortable, and quite flattering. This tells me that, either I am actually box-shaped, or perhaps I don't need to try so hard to add shaping to my sweaters. Or maybe both.

I bought the yarn so long ago that I can't even remember what the fibre content is. I THINK it's merino (but it's a good chance it's Blue Faced Leicester). And I THINK it's superwash (but I'm not taking any chances). Whatever it is, it is SUPER DUPER soft and squishy and comfortable, not in the least bit itchy against my bare skin. Geez.... now I really wish I knew what it was, because then I'd get a few more skeins...

... because, of course I need more yarn:

It's a little bit rumpled in the photo above, because I'd broken my rule about wearing new knits prior to photographing them. I'd just come back from the supermarket when I decided to pop upstairs to get a few shots. It is, incidentally, a pretty good sweater to wear for shopping.

I am very happy with how the back turned out:

And the seams at the shoulders aren't really all that noticeable:

I suppose that part of the reason it is so flattering is that the ribbing at the bottom made a sort of natural flare at the bottom after I blocked it. I kept going over and giving the ribbing a stretch every so often as it dried to keep it from clinging to my hips:

The whole sweater took just under six skeins, which I think had roughly 240 yards in each skein. I still have four full skeins left, which means I get to have another go with making something with this lovely yarn.

The weather is turning for the better these days: rainy days here and there, interspersed by lovely, bright, sunny ones. I wore this sweater out for a walk yesterday with a shawl to keep the wind off my arms. I was perfectly comfortable.

These days, my thoughts are turning towards springtime knits: lacy cardigans and cotton tops. I decided that I'd finally try my hand at making Veronik Avery's Millay Jacket, which I have been admiring for a while now. And of course, I'm modifying it, because I don't have enough yarn for the original pattern, and I don't like the front, and I think I'm getting a larger gauge with my yarn and needles... does any of this sound familiar? I spent a few days just sitting and sketching and calculating. I think I've got a good handle on it now. After all, what could go wrong?

Heh, confidence or arrogance? I guess we'll find out. Happy Sunday!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

A Kitten Goalie

'It doesn't happen all at once,' said the Skin Horse. 'You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.” ― Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit
I was glad to see the weekend again this week. I spent all week feeling like a kitten trying to be a goalie in a soccer match... trying to catch all the stuff that was being thrown at me. I think I did ok. I don't think I let anything past, but I wasn't really keeping score or anything. I just know that I reached Friday night feeling tired and hungry and whiney. I ate lots of snacks and went to bed early. Kitten goalies need lots of sleep and lots of snacks.

I didn't have any huge plans this weekend: mostly just chores and cooking. I finally got around to making the hubby's birthday cake, one week late. It's a recipe I found years ago from a Sainsbury's recipe card back when we lived in Belfast. I lost the card somewhere during one of our moves, but I went searching online and found that someone saved it here. It doesn't photograph all that well, but it's made with orange juice, dried apricots, ground almonds and semolina, which makes a heavy, dense cake, and which is why it's cracked all over and has a split in the middle. It's so good, it can't even hold itself up:

The little holes all over the top are for the orange syrup to soak in. I poured it over last night, and so it's well-absorbed today. It's not the easiest cake to make: I cut the very tip of my thumb off while I was slicing the apricots, and I spent half an hour cleaning the burned sugar off the stove after the syrup overflowed. But the hubby loves this cake (so much so that I had to shout at him one time for stealing a slice before it was ready), and if a cake must be made, then it must be made.

Vancouver Island keeps getting hit with slushy snowstorms. I'm pretty sick of it all, as is everyone else. It would be different if we didn't have all these sunny, spring-like days in between to get our hopes up. It's different from when I lived on the prairies - winter is winter until winter is done being winter. And when it's done, it's done. And it's not slushy and wet and icy and dangerous.

This might be the whiney kitten goalie talking here.

Anyway, perhaps I won't be too late to wear this sweater that just keeps dragging on, much like the winter (heh). I'm very happy to say that I finished one side of it, and I took the stitches for the back and the other side of the sleeves off the holders last night. I know it looks really weird here, but that's because I've got holders on the shoulders because I intend to do a three-needle bind off when I'm done the other side. It sorta looks like a white monster with beady little eyes at the top... but really, I think it's turning out to be a nice sweater... eventually:

It's Daylight Savings Time this weekend, which is means we lost an hour last night, and which is adding a degree more annoyance for me. Really? One less hour for the weekend? I don't normally get that uptight about this whole time-change thing, but right now, I must protest. When can we leave this thing behind and let us just adjust to the seasons as Mother Nature intended: with nap times intact and sleep schedules unchanged? I must write a strongly worded letter about this one of these days, complete with commas and em dashes and words like "heretofore" and "indubitably." It will be a proper Victorian-style letter, after which I will fan myself with my hanky and sit back in my settee and catch my breath. Perhaps that will show them.

Or, I can just sit around and feel sorry for myself with the same face that our new office puppy has:

In the end, I'm grateful for the weekend, shortened as it is. One of my office mates is back from his holidays this week, so maybe I can hide behind him for a while and let him field some of the shots. It might take a bit of bribery. Good thing I made cake.

And, deep down, I know what is true: all these tough days are part of what will make me a better person than I was yesterday and the day before. I am as the Skin Horse says: a little loose in the joints and a little shabby, but perhaps one day, even if my hair gets all rubbed off in the process, I'll be able to stand up stronger and wiser... and perhaps a "real" kitten goalie. Now that's a dream worth waiting for.

Happy Sunday, all.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Mistakes, Bread, and Life

It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness; that is life.
--Jean-Luc Picard, Star Trek: The Next Generation, "Peak Performance"
It was the hubby's birthday this weekend. We decided a few weeks ago that we'd go to our favourite cabin for the weekend as a treat, and I'm very glad we did. Work life is so challenging these days that any chance to change scenery is welcome. I know it was really supposed to be his birthday treat, but I was so glad to have the chance to have a soak in this lovely tub. I was having a hard time letting go of an error I'd made this week, and as I lay in there soaking, I had a quiet word with myself:

I said, "I can tell you're going to be thinking a lot about this today. I won't stop you, but just keep in mind that thinking about it isn't going to change what happened, nor will it change the outcome... but if you want to think about it, you've got the space and permission to do so."

After that, I barely thought about it again for the rest of the weekend. Go figure.

We awoke to another skiff of snow. It was really only a liberal dusting, but I admit that I wasn't all that happy to see it. I think it might have been my fault: I was thinking about my current sweater project and wondering if I would finish it in time to make use of it this winter. I really must stop saying such things. Still, being at the cabin makes even the most unwelcome weather bearable:

The snow didn't last long. The sun came out as I was drinking my coffee, and by the time we were out and about, there was some serious melting going on. We decided to head out for a walk along the trail at the Kinsol Trestle, which is a nice, easy trail with some impressive scenery:

Since the hubby is fighting through the last stage of bronchitis and I was so wrung out with my work week, it was about the most physically demanding thing we did all weekend. The fresh air and exercise did wonders for us, as did the long afternoon nap and tea break we had before dinner. It was a struggle, but yet, somehow we persevered.

I did take along my knitting, which is so dull-looking that I really don't feel like taking photos of it right now. It's interesting the role that your hobbies take in your life. I happened to look back at an older blogpost of mine and reminisced about how I used to plan for projects, look for yarn to match the plan, and set up the queue in my Ravelry profile with all the detail of a travel agent booking a multi-stop, round-the-world holiday. Nowadays, I spend time daydreaming of things I might like to try and then go for a wander through my stash to make my daydreams become reality... mostly by winging it and hoping for the best.

I'm still not so sure that my current sweater project is going to work out. I have a bad feeling that I really have made it too big, but I'm trying not to be too concerned about it. It's not like anything I've ever made before: it's a simple sweater with no shaping, longer in length and with much more ease than anything else I've made previously. It's unfamiliar territory for me. Who knows? It might be just what I've been hoping to wear.

Or not. In which case, I will test my felting skills, I guess.

It's funny reaching this stage in my life, after all my years of being a high-achiever, a straight-A student, constantly making goals and working to the plan. Maybe I'm finally beginning to trust my skills. Or maybe I'm realizing that, sometimes, no matter how hard I try, some things won't work out how I want them to. And that's ok.

But at least my soda bread always works out perfectly. If I must yearn for perfection in some area of my life, at least I have that. Have a good week, everyone.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Choosing My Monkeys

Not my circus, not my monkeys. -- Polish Proverb
I have a habit of taking on problems and trying to fix them. Maybe it's some kind of deep-seated maternal instinct: a need to protect and save, to find solutions in the darkest situations. I'm good at it... but it's exhausting.

For example: I brought a plant home from work last summer, where, try as we might, we could not keep it alive. It would sprout a few leaves and then droop and wilt and die off a bit, and then, near death, it would try again. It was a pitiful wee thing, so I decided to intervene. I gave it a new pot with a mixture of potting soil and a bit of manure. I've been watering it carefully by dipping it into cup of water to let it soak the water from below. Slowly, but surely, it sprouted new leaves, strong and green and robust. Today, it looks like this:

Speaking of work, I had some nice visitors in my office this week. This is Nala, a sweet, gentle dog with the softest, silkiest coat I've ever felt on any animal. I must find out what kind of conditioner she uses:

And this is Roxy. She's a toughie, but when you get her on her own, she is a sweetheart. She's also a mooch, but I've NEVER (ahem) ever given in:

It was a busy week, full of drama and upheaval. It really took its toll on me: I soak that stuff up like a crouton in an old salad. That part of me that likes to take care of other people's problems... that part feels like it was mugged in a dark alley. Twice. In short, I was glad to reach the weekend.

In the midst of all of that, I was sorta glad that I have a really simple project on the needles. It doesn't look like much, but this WILL be a sweater some day. I compared it to another sweater yesterday, and it looked like I was ready to move on to the sleeves... which ACTUALLY means I should knit another three inches. I have such a bad habit of ending up with sweaters that are just a tinge too short, so I've decided that I'm going to knit the heck out of this one. It's a bit of a gamble, because I don't want to end up with a huge, shapeless sack... but I'm so tired this weekend that I think I might actually be ok with that:

I was supposed to start a calligraphy class this week, but it got cancelled at the last minute (turned out I was the only one registered, heh). I was really disappointed, but, given my crazy week, it was probably for the best. I got up this morning and did a really long, guided yoga practice. This afternoon, even though I really wanted to get more knitting done on my sweater, I decided to pull out one of my sketch books and play around a little.

I tried out a bit of pencil calligraphy, holding two pencils side-by-side:

I abandoned that for a bit of pencil-lettering, just mimicking ink and pen with pencils and shading:

Then I pulled out some coloured pencils:

And, after a bit of shading with the pencil crayons and outlining with a few gel pens, I wrote out one of the meta phrases that stuck with me from this morning's yoga practice:

Here's to a week where I am at ease with what comes, to accept the things I cannot change, to change the things I can, and to find the wisdom to know the difference. To know which monkeys are mine and to leave the others for their owners. And to do some knitting... cuz that's good, too.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Inspiration Mondays: About Stuart

Story-lovers got some bad news last week. One of our treasures passed away. He was ill. I think we all thought he'd get better. It was somewhat of a shock.

I'd heard of Stuart McLean throughout my childhood, but my family weren't big CBC Radio listeners. I'd heard about Dave Cooks the Turkey, but had never actually heard the story, and I'd listened to people talk about this storyteller here and there, but never really gave him much thought.

We "discovered" him a few years ago, during a long, long drive down to Utah on a holiday. It was during one of those long days of driving that I turned on the radio and happened upon The Vinyl Cafe. I can't remember what we listened to, or if we even heard the whole story, but we were entranced. After that, we subscribed to podcasts, and we would listen while I sat on the floor with my yoga mat and did my stretches and the hubby laid back and listened.

A couple of years later, I asked for tickets to his Christmas show in Calgary for my birthday. I was excited, but I was not prepared for how magical the experience would be. It was transformative... a show with music and laughter and twinkling lights and stories... I was entranced and delighted. I'd never dreamed that a huge hall of people of all ages could sit in silence while we listened to a man on a stool at a microphone with a music stand in front of him read his stories.

It still amazes me that, in this day of YouTube videos, high-action movies, and the latest-and-greatest in entertainment gear, this person could make a living being just what he was: a storyteller: a person who had the words to all of the things the rest of us long to express, and who expressed them for us, freely, and with great accuracy of emotion. It was never melodramatic, nor was it preachy or sanctimonious.

It was always what we needed to hear.

I mourn him. I am sad to know he's gone. I feel like one of the precious few people I treasured in my life has gone and left a hole.

But, when the news of his death broke, I was heartened by the people who left comments and tributes... and I felt a kinship with each and every one of them. I've felt really isolated and lonely recently, but I felt better knowing there were others like me out there.

There are other people in the world that get lost in the world of stories.

I start most of my blogposts with a quote, but this time, I'll end with one that has been repeated over and over out there by Stuart's fans over the last few days. It's from his story, "Le Mort d'Arthur," which was a story about the death of a family pet. I cried when I heard it, I re-listened to it when I lost my Rascal, and I've treasured it ever since. It says everything my aching heart wanted to say.

Thank you, Story Man. You've given the world more than you could ever know.
“We do this thing. We open our hearts to the world around us. And the more we do that, the more we allow ourselves to love, the more we are bound to find ourselves one day - like Dave, and Morley, and Sam, and Stephanie - standing in the kitchen of our live, surrounded by the ones we love, and feeling empty, and alone, and sad, and lost for words, because one of our loved ones, who should be there, is missing. Mother or father, brother or sister, wife or husband, or a dog or cat. It doesn't really matter. After a while, each death feels like all the deaths, and you stand there like everyone else has stood there before you, while the big wind of sadness blows around and through you. 
"He was a great dog," said Dave. 
"Yes," said Morley. "He was a great dog.”
― Stuart McLean

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Sweater Promises

I imagine Heaven would have very nice weather - perfect climate where you can wear a leather jacket or shorts and a sweater. --Hilary Rhoda
It's been a tiring couple of weeks around here. Work has been difficult... very difficult. It's starting to look up, but, combined with some poor weather and not being able to get out for walks, or even up to the gym has made for a really difficult, depressing time.

I suppose that's why I haven't made much progress on my current knitting project. The strange thing about working on something simple and uncomplicated means that it just becomes... well... more like work. And when you're not in the best of moods, seeing little progress is all the more depressing. This is the sort of project where you knit for an hour, and you look at your work and swear you should be further along... so you knit for another hour to try to make it go faster, only to feel the same again... Sisyphus for an eternity. (I get classical when I'm depressed):

I think it's during these times when I start searching for something, anything, where I can make some kind of progress. I was lying awake one night (as one is apt to do when you eat a burger too late at night), and I started thinking about my Bloomsbury Sweater that I made this time last year. I've been struggling with it, because the neckline was just too wide for it to sit properly on my shoulders. It was really frustrating to have to keep tugging at it to keep it from sliding down, so I'd been contemplating on what I was going to do to fix it:

I thought about adding some kind of inside button/strap combination to keep anchor it against my bra straps, but I knew deep down that it was never going to work. I thought it would be better to try to undo the neck ribbing and lengthen it upwards somehow, but since I knit it from the top down, that was going to be a complicated job. You see: knitting has a direction, and trying to to force knitting to work in two different directions, particularly when there is lace and ribbing involved... well, it's like trying to teach a dog to drive. It's not easy, but it takes some work.

In the end, as I lay awake in bed, I searched on my phone until I came across this post which gave me some good tips. I felt pretty confident that I could do it. I had a plan. I figured I could knock it out in half an hour.

Turns out that plans made in the middle of the night are a teeny bit flawed. After an hour of wrestling with the neckline, I had a big ol' mess on my hands:

But I got up and ate some dinner, and after that, I sat down again, and something just clicked. It seemed to fly off my needles after that, and soon, I had a sweater I could wear comfortably. I knit about two-and-a-half inches of ribbing, starting with a needle size one smaller than what I'd used to knit the sweater, then one size smaller than that for the next inch, and then one size smaller than that for the last couple of rows and the bind off. I wore it the other day and felt quite comfortable... and somewhat triumphant. It's nice when stuff works out:

I've had a bit of a reprieve at work, and things are feeling slightly better, and I am therefore more hopeful and positive. It also helps that I've had a couple of nights of good, uninterrupted sleep, and a really nice visit with a good friend yesterday. We got chatting about friendship, and what it means these days, and I'm grateful to have people like her in my life. Besides: she convinced me to stop in at the yarn shop, even though I don't REALLY need anything, and it's there that I picked up these skeins of Rowan Creative Linen, a 50/50 cotton linen blend. I felt a teeny bit guilty about it, but I rationalized that 1) I don't have much summer yarn, 2) I have a pretty solid idea in my head of what I'm going to make with it, and 3) it was 50% off. 

And heck, it's been a rough time. I just want something to look forward to:

Anyway, I feel more grounded and settled at the moment, and I just came home from a yoga workshop. I feel relaxed and more open-minded, so I'm going to go and relax on the couch and do some more work on my current sweater. Tedious at it is, it's nice to have a bit of predictability... and I predict it'll be a while before this one is done. Ah well... it has the promise to be a nice, wearable, comfy sweater. And a sweater promise is one of the better promises in life.

Happy Sunday, all.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

And I Finally Listened

Hell is just resistance to life. -- Pema Chodron
I took a course last autumn called Mindful Self Compassion, where a recurring theme was, "What you resist, persists." What that means is: those uncomfortable feelings that you keep shutting out and trying to tune out and distract yourself from, well, unless you learn how to sit with them and feel them and examine them, they just won't ever go away. Ever.

So, I've been doing a lot of listening... a lot of gentle pulling myself back from running away, like a mother cat with her kittens. I'm still working on it. And I'm noticing how this idea has been crossing over to lots of different parts of my life.

Like yarn. Because, let's face it: yarn is life.

So, I've been trying to force this skein of yarn into some kind of garment. I love its colours, the tones, and the blend of them all together has enchanted me since the first time I laid eyes on it.

Yet, every single attempt I have made to make it into a garment has failed. I've tried cardigans, pullovers, skirts, cowls... absolutely everything I have tried has been pulled apart and rewound. I've read all my magazines, searched through Ravelry, taken photos of clothes in stores for inspiration. I've even collected paint chips with the same colours and put them on a table and stared at them to try to figure out what I could make.

And this week, it finally came together. I made a thing.

I'm very, very happy with the result. I had struggled for ages trying to think of something to make with this yarn, and it had sat for over a year would up in yarn cakes, waiting for me to figure it out. Casting on to knit a blanket was sort of a resignation for me. I never knit blankets, and I consider it kind of a cop-out, sort of like saying, "Well, I can't make anything else with this so I'll just make it a blanket."

It was though the yarn knew something I didn't, and it was just waiting for me to finally listen:

I'm entranced by it... and I can't help but wonder if there's more to this blanket knitting than I give it credit for.  I am especially happy with the border. It's not geometrically perfect, but I'm very proud of how smoothly I picked up the stitches and attached the selvedeges together. And I impressed myself with how I had enough foresight to leave long enough tails of yarn to sew up any gaps in the connections (and yes, there were gaps in there):

This week, I came across a simple sweater pattern, the design of which I really liked. I've been looking for a cream-coloured sweater all winter, but this pattern inspired me to make one for myself. I shared it with a few people, but the weather has been so sunny and dry that I actually said aloud, "By the time I knit it, it'll be too warm to wear it."

That appeared to jinx the weather. I take responsibility. I'm sorry, Westcoasters... I think that was my bad:

So, I've cast on for a sweater using some more yarn I've had stashed for years. I changed the gauge, because I am not convinced that a sweater knit with DK weight yarn will fare very well when knit with size 8 needles - I think it will be too droopy and the stitches may stretch. Honestly though, I've had this yarn for so long that I can't even remember if it is for sure DK weight, and I can't remember what yardage it is. All I know is that I bought ten of them with the intention to dye them for another project which never happened.

Maybe this yarn has been waiting for me to listen to it as well.

Today, I'm also listening to my body. I feel kinda run down and tired, with the slightest hint of a sore throat. I took an hour-long nap yesterday afternoon, and then proceeded to go to bed at 9pm on a Saturday night. I woke up at 7am this morning, and only because the hubby switched on the light. So far, I've had a hot bath, did some yoga, and had another long nap. And I think I'll enjoy a couple of slices of this lovely bread I made yesterday:

It's a Dutch oven version of wholemeal soda bread, which is called Wheaten Bread in Northern Ireland. It brings back memories of living in Belfast, for which I feeling particularly nostalgic these days. The bread itself was so good that I decided to make another loaf today:

Because, well... it's still snowing out there, and it's hovering around freezing, so the roads are pretty bad. No telling when we'll get out of here...

Aw heck, there's no running away from winter, even from here on Vancouver Island. I think I better quit resisting and do some listening here. I have a feeling I've got some learning to do...