Monthly Archives: December 2011

2011: The Year Born(e) of Fire

Born: having been birthed.
Borne: carried or transmitted by or via.  

Some readers and friends may recall that I really don’t like New Year’s Eve. As a child, I used to wake up on January 1st and wait for a feeling of change, of ‘different’. It never came. Of course, I know now that the very idea of the New Year is arbitrary. As a Pagan I actually have another wholly separate date, and we all know about Chinese New Year. The Pagan notion of the Wheel of the Year works with my curmudgeony gut feelings. The seasons progress, the rituals of life and faith are marked, the cycle repeats. It simply is, and for some reason it doesn’t stress me out like the secular American New Year does.

Looking back, this was a year of breathtaking lows and dazzling highs. In early January I was laid off from my job of 11 ½ years, losing excellent health and financial benefits, and a good portion of my identity and confidence as an adult. As the slightly larger contributor to our modest combined income, and having just taken a loan to replace our dead furnace, the shock was numbing. Since then I have temped for less pay, higher time and travel costs initially, no sick time, and no benefits. The worry and stress as the uncertainty and austerity measures drag on has been… challenging. Depression and chronic pain flares have been frequent.

 

Intense, but beautiful.

 

On the other hand, we made a big push with Bittersweet and the vastly expanded show season and product lines were successful. Essentially working two full time jobs for months at a time, the sacrifice of time and health paid off in an expanded customer base and the knowledge that we could grow even in these dismal economic times. We did a lot, but there’s still so much more to do. It will be even more hard work next year, but we know it’ll be worth it.

My life and relationships changed a lot this year, and I (re)learned painful lessons but also found grace and comfort given freely. My husband can tell you, part of how I manage depression is to be mindful of the blessings I have, and to be grateful for them. It was harder to keep that practice in the forefront of my mind this year than in years past, but I did my best and it continues to serve me well. I have good friends, loving family, and a wonderful husband. I have work, good coworkers and bosses, and a warm home to call my own. I have been fortunate in many ways. Thank you most especially to Steve, whose support and love are a shining constant. I love you, husband. Thank you, loved ones.

 

End of the day here at Tiny House.

 

I don’t know if things are going to be better in the coming year. I don’t know if change, inevitable as it is, will bring positive change. All I can do is hope; despite the fact that I’m what I call a “rational realist” (what some might call a pessimist). I hope that you and yours close the book on 2011 happier and healthier than you started it. I hope that 2012 brings you what you need. I hope that people like my friend Kate are given the chance to stop just “putting one foot in front of the other” and struggling to survive, and are instead given the chance to fly with lighter hearts and brighter smiles.

Terribly Teal Katy

There is comfort in completely mindless knitting. I don’t recommend it for every project, but I am really enjoying my first post-holiday-knitting project, and it is definitely mindless. A few weeks ago I jumped in and made my first Lazy Katy in a somewhat ill advised yarn choice. Even so, I enjoyed the pattern enough that I knew I would quickly knit it again, this time in handspun.

 

It's hard to photograph in dim lighting, so just imagine a yarn that's far prettier in color.

 

A quick dig through my handspun cabinet and I found the perfect candidate. It’s an unblogged (of course), 8oz skein of Romney from Triple R Ranch, I believe purchased at Rhinebeck 2010. It’s a two-ply heavy lace/light fingering skein of the most shockingly beautiful teal and navy, and just the sort of thing to really pop during the coming cold and dreary winter. I spun the yarn in the dark of winter, during the time I was laid off from work.

 

A vortex of yarn becomes something new entirely.

 

I thought, perhaps, that knitting stockinette with such fine yarn would feel endless, but it’s not so bad. It would be even more breezy feeling if the fabric didn’t curl up, as it’s wont to do. I fall into the trap of thinking I’m not getting anywhere when I see the thin tube of fabric all rolled up, but then I spread it out and realize just how far I’ve gotten. Endless will be when I pick up the stitches for the edging and promptly double the count in the very next row. For that reason alone I know I won’t be able to finish in time to tally it as a 2011 FO. What a shame, it’s going to be so close!

 

It curves, undulating.

 

My only concern comes when I have to bind off. For some reason I just don’t understand the crochet bind off. I know how to crochet, but the crochet 5 together portion seems so sloppy and bumpy. If you’ve knit this pattern already or know someone who has, I’d dearly appreciate any help I can get. For the acrylic version I gave as a gift I ended up just doing a plain knit bind off.

 

The fabric is crisp, and the colors a watery drift.

 

I have a feeling this is going to be one of the few patterns that I knit over and over again. Given how easily memorized the body of the shawl is, I don’t even need to have the pattern with me until it’s time to start the lace border. It’s the perfect grab and go project, the shawl equivalent of a Plain Jane sock. Maybe I should make one in each of my favorite colors and have a ‘shawl wardrobe’. Works for me.

Christmas Came

It’s oh, so quiet. Shh… Shh.. It’s oh, so still. Shh… Shh…

 

My brother in law made my husband a very happy man. In that box was a box full of miniatures, tiles, and hours of D&D man-fun.

 

Yeah, what she said. Normally I like to share a little holiday cheer this time of year, but I just didn’t have it in me. I thought very cheery thoughts in your general direction instead. That counts, right? I hope that everyone had a happy and healthy holiday (or non holiday). Whatever your faith or beliefs, my wish is for everyone to be blessed with a little peace and joy.

 

Nuala in her sparkly princess sweater.

 

Holiday knitting was a success, and it seemed that everyone was pleased with their gifts. I had a touch of the camnesia Christmas day, and I’m sorry to say that I don’t have pictures of Steve wearing his new hats, but I do have one of dad. For some reason mom found dad’s Turn a Square hat in very manly, woodsy browns to be hysterical. Not sure what that was about, but I think he likes it. Steve is already sporting his Turn a Square in olives that go well with his olive wool winter coat, and I am happy that my menfolk are so well tricked out. Everyone else’s gifts got smiles, and I think it was energy well spent.

 

What's so funny?

 

Mom wonders what a Calorimetry is.

 

We had a very porkadelic Christmas. Mmm... pork...

 

Christmas weekend we hopped from family gathering to gathering, namely one half of Steve’s family, then mine, then the other half of his. Aside from my mom recovering from a bad cold, it was nice to see everyone. Amongst all of that we got the happy news that we’re going to have a niece or nephew in the coming year! I am beside myself with excitement. I’m already pretty sure that I’ll be knitting and crocheting multiple gifts. What crafty first-time aunt could pick just one? The poor kid’s going to be drowning in yarn by the time the rest of the family gets through crocheting. Yarn is love you can wrap around you.

 

Mom with her fancy schmancy new digital sewing machine and refurbished sewing table.

 

The best gift of all this Christmas was the gift of my parents. Being able to share the holiday proper with them, just a lazy day together, was better than anything that came wrapped or bagged with tissue paper. Having them home for the holidays makes everything right with the world, if only for a few days. I am very rich in love, and I hope you are too.

Tat’s What SHE Said

I am drifting along in a haze of tatted snowflake-like shapes. I only wish I had nicer thread, but as I’m still prone to losing track of what I’m doing half way through, it’s probably a good thing. You can pick out a few stitches with no problems, but this isn’t knitting folks… tatting plays for keeps.

 

It's a mini-flurry!

 

Have I ever mentioned what got me interested in tatting to begin with? I might have, but just in case you missed it, it was this pentacle-like star from Jon’s treasure trove website. Go on, please, take a moment and click on the link. You’ll be amazed at how gorgeous her work is. Yes, that single project threw me headlong down the tatting rabbit hole. I’m still a bit behind on the modern tatting skill set (split rings, double shuttles anyone?), but my ultimate goal is to make that star. Some day.

 

I'm not kidding. It's so simple.

 

Lest you think that this is one of those endeavors that sucks up time and money, I’ll share with you three facts:

  1. You can get into tatting for less than $10 with a $2 ball of crochet cotton and a $5 package of two Clover shuttles. The internet will show the rest.
  2. The ornaments I make take an hour or less on average for me to make. When I get good, I bet I can shave quite a bit off that.
  3. The whole kit can fit in an Altoids tin and slip into your pocket.

Eventually I’ll work with finer materials and tools, but it’s not necessary to start. You should try it someday. In the end, it boils down to a two-step knot and deliberate spaces that get scrunched up into picots. End of story.

 

Home Run Knittah

Beneath the tree may be bare for now, but that is a situation that will soon change. Aside from weaving in some ends, for which I need to find my large eye needle, all of my must-have holiday knitting is done. Done, I tell you! I went from 0 to 9 projects in less than four weeks. May the gods bless worsted weight yarn. I swear that I forgot knitting could happen this quickly!

 

Mama minds the tree for me.

 

The men in my life read my blog, so I can’t show you what I made for dad and the husbeast. I can, however, show you what mom will be receiving. Now, these are what she specifically asked for, mind you. Normally I’d have knit her a pair of socks, but this year she wanted a winter headband and a pair of boot toppers. How she even knows what boot toppers are, I have no idea, but there you have it.

It worked up lickety split.

 

Strange shape, but snuggly warm.

 

The headbands took me less than an hour each to make, so I made three! It’s not surprising when you keep in mind that the yarn I chose was so chunky that it appeared to be two strands of worsted weight yarn plied together. It’s another offering from the Deborah Norville line at JoAnn’s, the Serenity Garden Chunky in Apple Blosson, Dark Forest, and Walden Pond. I could have used some of my Noro stash, but mom is sensitive to wool around her face, so I know she’d prefer a baby-soft acrylic like this. The pattern is the ubiquitous Calorimetry, from Knitty, and I highly recommend it for quick gifts.

 

Really, really red. And done, despite what the photo tells you.

 

The boot toppers are my own pattern, in a very cheery holiday red called “Really Red”, also from Ms. Norville (Everyday Soft Worsted) that I had leftover from baby knitting earlier this year. After sussing out how boot toppers are made, I came up with something pleasing. The waves and foam edging was simple enough, though I want to make them again using a provisional cast on for a more seamless join when it comes time to turn the trim into a cuff.

My cousin’s enormo socks are also done but for the weaving in of ends. They are pretty epic when you see them in real life. Watch, I bet I’ve overcompensated and they’ll be too big for her. Fingers crossed! You already saw the sparkly dog sweater, which along with the two gifts I can’t talk about, makes 9. Not too shabby! There’s an optional gift, the chunky, acrylic Lazy Katy I had begun while I waited for the rescue sock yarn to come in. It’s this shy of done, I’ve got just a few more rows on the border and then to see how it all works out in the wash. There’s no reason I can’t knock that out as well, and there you have it, 10 gifts in just over 4 weeks.

 

Tatted 'snowflakes' for our trees.

 

Last, but not least, I’ve started tatting the snowflake ornaments I hope to give out as gifts for those who don’t get pickles or beer bread mix. I remembered the basics, but I got confused on a more advanced technique and had to pull out my trusty tatting DVD that came with the learn to tat book I bought. The quick visual reminder was all I needed to get back in the saddle and away I went. As of this morning I’ve knocked out one ornament, and started another. It’s nice to be knotting these delicate, beautiful pieces again. I wish I knew people who tat; it’s such a cool and portable hobby.

 

 

Fun Meter’s Full

Friday night I ran straight over to my parent’s house, and after mom fed me, she kept me company whilst I began my first attempts at canning. The directions are so simple, and yet there’s the voice in the back of my head that spent the entire time trying to scare the crap out of me (mostly succeeding). I’ve read from experienced canners that it’s not so scary as all that, but wow, it sorta is when you have the giant booming voice of the CDC warning you not to kill your friends and family.

 

Steamy jars of future pickles.

 

You can't have pickles without garlic! I mean, really.

 

A few friends and loved ones shall be my guinea pigs... muahahaha!

 

The recipe I had on hand didn’t call for dill or garlic, so I made the executive decision to add some. Scary! You’re not supposed to mess around with the recipes, right? But dill and garlic are traditional pickle ingredients, right? Since neither of these is present in great quantities, I figure I won’t kill anyone. Right? Scariness aside, I had a lot of fun canning, especially hushing mom so we could listen for the PING sound of the cooling jars. It was kinda magical. I can’t wait to do it again! I came home with 10 pints of sliced pickles and I am dying to open the jar I’m keeping for personal use to see how it tastes. The book says to wait a week, so that’s Friday. Come on, Friday! Mama wants to try her pickles.

 

Making yarn the CPW way. (Navajo plying.)

 

The CPW (Canadian Production Wheel) Roundup on Saturday was a blast. While there weren’t as many of us as last year, it’s understandable given the time of year. The bunch of us that could make it had a wonderful time oohing and poking at the lovely wheels that were in attendance. We even learned a new way to sit at the wheel, which I’m told by those who tried is surprisingly comfortable. Meeting new-to-me attendees was especially fun, and there was an added bonus of a gift of luxurious, hand-painted silk top given to me by the generous Rhonda. I’ve never spun pure silk before, and I’m grateful for the gift.

 

Pretty maids, all in a row.

 

Pretty maids, and maidens, all in a row.

 

Afterwards most of us drove on over to the Cask & Rasher for wings and microbrews. The food, drink, and company were the best way to end a very good day. Sunday’s Christmas gift to ourselves, seats at The Nutcracker, was everything I hoped it would be. We dressed up, found our seats in the gloriously ornate theater, and took the whole spectacle in. The music! The costumes! The dancing! I was in heaven, along with every single little white girl of means in the Capital District. Also of interesting note, Clara, the main character, was danced by a talented young black ballerina. Good for her! Thanks to a gift card held back from our anniversary, we also got to enjoy dinner afterwards at one of my favorite restaurants.

 

Just a portion of Proctor's glorious theater. Even the cheap nosebleed seats were good!

 

Wife & Husbeast, happy patrons.

More later on the knitting part of all this, but suffice to say that I have moved on to the tatting. Oh, tatting, I had forgotten how lovely thou art. *dreamy sigh*

 

Note: 

It has been brought to my attention that my comments on the ballet has offended some readers. It was not my intention, and I do hope that readers and friends alike will understand that I meant no offense or ill will. I will keep the post up, as is, because I believe in standing by my words, for good or for worse. 

Bursting at the Seams

In and amongst all this holiday knitting (and the tennis elbow) is just a wee bit of excitement building up. Timing constraints funneled a whack-ton of wonderful into this weekend and I’m wondering if I’ll survive it all. Case in point:

Friday: After I get out of work at 5 p.m. I’ll race over to my parent’s house with ingredients in hand so she and I can make refrigerator pickles. Mom made a batch from one of my recipe books earlier this summer and they are like little coins of delectable win! These jars of garlicky deliciousness will become inexpensive holiday gifts for friends and family. If I can find another gift friendly and (hopefully) universally welcome recipe that we can make in a hurry that would be an added bonus.

 

Tempeste, my CPW.

 

Saturday: Because it was so much fun last year, I decided to give another Canadian Production Wheel meetup a go. The Grand Old Dames CPW roundup will be from 1:00 – 5:00 at the Athens Cultural Center, here in Athens, NY. Spinners and fiber artists of all type are welcome, even if you don’t have a CPW or are just curious. Think of it as your gateway to the slippery slope that is antique spinning wheel fandom. The event is free, but donations to the Cultural Center are appreciated. There will be a raffle of small prizes as well.

Sunday: Our Christmas gift to each other is cheap-seats to see The Nutcracker at Proctor’s Theater, performed by the Northeast Ballet Company. I love both of these things, both this particular ballet and this particular theater. I’ve always wanted to see The Nutcracker live, and I’m truly grateful that we can do this together. We’ll get dressed up, I’ll take photos of the beautiful architecture in that elegant building, and my husband will get credit for sitting through something he’s not particularly interested in, but is willing to join me in experiencing. That’s love. I’m wondering if I should sneak in his gift and knit on it in the darkened theater, but I don’t want to miss a moment! I can’t decide what I’m more excited about, the costumes, the music, or the dancing.

 

The Northeast Ballet Company performs The Nutcracker.

 

It’s a humble Christmas, but the few small things we can do for each other will be sweet, and meaningful. I almost can’t believe it, The Nutcracker! I’m so grateful that Proctor’s makes these kinds of performances within reach of people like us. You really can’t beat seats as low as $20 each for a live production like this. It’ll be a night I’ll remember for the rest of my life. Now I just have to survive the weekend.

The Gift Clock

>>>BONG<<<

Did you feel it? That silent, deep earth shudder? That was the Gift Clock marking the   countdown. Depending on whether your gifts have to go in the mail or not, your deadline may vary, but it still looms. If you’re gift knitting/crocheting your eyes just got a little wider, your jaw a little firmer. If you’re a slow knitter, like me, you want to make doubly sure that you haven’t bitten off more than you can chew. There’s no time for mistakes. That isn’t to say that I haven’t made any, not at all.

 

Knitting in a dark movie theater can lead to such things as dropped stitches.

 

I’m surprised that things are going along as well as they are so far. I started two weeks ago and since then I have finished two gifts, gotten ¾ through another (ran out of yarn, on order), and am roughly a third of the way through another. That leaves three full gifts to go, two of which are almost one evening projects. Then I start with the tatting of as many snowflakes possible, which falls completely into the “If I Get Time” category. I’m not worrying about those right now.

 

Someone's gift...

 

Part of what’s helping me move along quickly is the larger yarn and needles. Worsted is my go-to gift yarn, especially acrylic and wool blends. Easy care, and the recipients prefer it that way. It’s SO weird knitting with such bulky yarn and needles, I almost feel like I’m knitting with rope and broomsticks. Zoom, zoom!

 

This weird blob will become a lovely gift someday.

 

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned since I started this run, it’s that I have FAR more lace and sock yarn than I have worsted weight yarn. Duh, big surprise, right? But still… aside from sweater quantities and the odd ball here and there, I don’t actually own very much of it in proportion to the rest of my stash. Thankfully I had some of what I needed, and was able to supplement the rest during super discount+free shipping sales at JoAnn’s. Best of all, one project in particular is using leftover scrap yarn and it works perfectly. I can’t claim to be knitting down the stash, but it helps.

Giddyup Gift Knitting

Look at me, racing along with the holiday knitting! My parents don’t read my blog (or at least my mom doesn’t), so I don’t have to worry about showing off gift #1 that I crossed off my list. This is a super sparkly screamingly fuchsia dog sweater for her majesty Princess Nuala. My mom is going to flip when she sees it. She loves it when I make stuff for Nuala, the more glamorous the better. The yarn is Caron Simply Soft Party, and I love the fabric that it makes. The sparkle is visible but not overwhelming, and very pretty. The only thing I don’t love about it is the sparkle strand feels strange when you run your finger across it across the grain.

 

The sweater and I had issues. I may try again if there's time.

 

Next up is gift #2, for my cousin Nancy (who also doesn’t read the blog as far as I know). After forever and a day, she’s finally getting her hand knit house socks. Nancy has large, wide feet, something like a 10.5 W or WW. Hence we have the largest socks I’ve ever knit for a woman. The ribbing, heels, and toes are knit in solid Aubergine, a very nice dark purple. The body of the sock was done in Carnivale, a raspberry, purple, navy, and yellow striping colorway. I ran out of Carnivale before I could finish the second sock, so it’ll be put to the side while I wait for more to come in.

 

The Enormo Sock

 

Both are my absolute favorite acrylic yarn in the world, Deborah Norville Everyday Soft Worsted. Words cannot express how much I love this acrylic, it’s velvety soft and a pleasure to work with. This is NOT your grandmother’s Red Heart. Trust me; I am normally a natural fiber devotee. I use this yarn in all my easy care “no wool” gift projects now.

While I wait, I have time to ponder my next four gifts. Dad hasn’t had anything hand made in forever, and I could see making him a hat. Mom wants something along the lines of a Calorimetry. She has a couple like it that she bought in a shop somewhere, but she’d like more (read: she’d like to be able to say “my daughter made it for me!”). I am happy to oblige, especially when it’s such a stupidly fast and simple project. She’d also like a pair of boot toppers, again, easy and fast to make. Both require wading into the deep stash for mostly synthetic/wool blend yarns that mom would wear against her skin, at least for the head band.

Steve, on the other hand, does read this blog, and therefore I can’t talk about his project. Not that I’ve decided on what I’m making him yet. Never have I been more appreciative of the hour I have to kill each morning when I’m dropped off to work. Not only is it built in knitting time, but it’s built in private knitting time. I have 5 hours a week, plus breaks, where I can work on his secret project. Blessing of blessings, I know what I’m making him too!

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