Septober Knitting :: Crackerjack

It’s Septober, y’all, and the race between the Tigers and the Royals is on. I’ve been watching lots of baseball, dreaming October dreams, and…

Crackerjack, with cat for scale

Tigers Crackerjack, with tiger cat for scale

… knitting on my Crackerjack!

After a 3-month hiatus, I finally cranked into gear, and I’ve now made it through August 11. I’m getting ready to leave the country for a few days, but there will still be a few days left of baseball season when I return, and I’m feeling a little more confident that I’m going to finish this project right when the regular season finishes up. And I’m feeling sooooo hopeful about the Tigers/Royals match-up this weekend. Let’s go, kitties!

 

How to Get Your (Crafting) Mojo Back in 3 Simple Steps

Or at least, this is how I got mine back.

All summer long, I’d been wanting to spin but never seemed to manage it. My summer travels disrupted any sense of momentum, but that seemed more an excuse to me than a real reason not to get any spinning done. I just couldn’t seem to make myself do it – and it’s always a shame to feel like you have to “make” yourself do something you love. By the time I finally sat down to the wheel in late August, I think I had not spun anything since April I think. So here’s how I got back to the wheel.

1. Do the hard thing.

Ask yourself: What is really standing in the way of my creating? What is blocking me, scaring me, or paralyzing me? What hard thing am I avoiding?

Usually when my mojo fizzles out, it’s because something is daunting me. Something feels hard or overwhelming, and it’s standing in the way of moving forward. When I consider crafting or creating, I can get paralyzed because of this hard thing, whatever it is. I’ve realized that if I can just make myself deal with the hard thing, I can get unblocked and start moving forward again.

In the case of my spinning, I was being held up by the fact that the yarn I had on the wheel was one that I’d lost my enthusiasm for spinning – it’s a yarn that I want to finish making eventually, like maybe next spring, but I’m not feeling any desire or need to get it done now. But there it sat, on my wheel in April, and in May, and in June, July, and August. I knew that I needed to either spin it or get it off the wheel. If I had lots of extra bobbins around, I suppose it wouldn’t have been an issue at all. But I have precisely four bobbins, and they all actually have something on them. Yes, apparently I have played this game before – running out of steam before I finish up a bobbin.

I realized that what I really needed to do if I wanted to get back to spinning was to clear that dang bobbin, one way or another. So I did.

toilet paper roll yarn

toilet paper roll yarn

It was so tedious, y’all. This may look small, but it took forever. It was very slow going, as this was thin, slippery yarn (four ounces worth). But I wound it by hand and got every inch off the bobbin and on to the toilet paper roll. It was a sweet relief to finally see a clear bobbin after five months. With a clean slate, I could finally move forward to the next step.

2. Do the easy thing.

Ask yourself: What would be the most fun thing I could do right now?

After facing the thing that was holding me up, it was time for a little cake. Not actual cake, just the reward of spinning something really fun. My go-to yarn for when I want to make something quick and easy is a nice, fat, thick-n-thin singles yarn.

Hello Yarn BFL

Hello Yarn BFL

This is the July 2014 fiber from the Hello Yarn Fiber Club, “Head Banger” on BFL, 194 yards bulky thick-n-thin, lightly fulled. Good grief, I love spinning fat singles. And there’s nothing like doing the fun, easy thing, after having done the hard thing, to really get the creative momentum going. Whenever I need a boost to my spinning, this is my default yarn. I just find it such a delightful thing to make – it always makes me realize again why I love spinning.

After I finished up something fast and fun, it was time to do one more thing to help me keep moving forward.

3. Do the basic thing.

Ask yourself: How can I lock in this momentum on a basic level? What could I do to keep things from getting too hard again? What basic practice, tool, resource, or technique do I need to revisit in order to recapture my proficiency? 

This was the final piece for me, for getting my mojo back. I realized that part of what was keeping me a bit stuck was my wheel. Last year, I got a new wheel, and I’m totally in love with it, but even after a year of spinning on it, there are some ways I still haven’t adjusted to it. In fact, I think I might need to take it apart and put it back together, as I’ve had a couple of issues with treadling, and I want to get a better sense of the wheel and of my relationship to it.

But for now, I’ve decided to get back to basics. So I pulled out my first wheel, my sweet Ladybug. I haven’t spun on her at all in over a year, ever since I got the Matchless, and it was high time to show her some love. I’ve been rewarded with some of the most delightful spinning I’ve done in awhile. It’s surprising what a difference there is between the two wheels, and even more surprising that it’s the Ladybug (an entry-level wheel) that is giving me a thrill these days.

Ladybug

Ladybug

I probably will get even further back to basics and take a break from the Woolee Winder, just to see what effect that has on my spinning. I already know that will be a harder shift, as I am so in love with it. But it will be good to really go all the way back to the beginning, and actually move yarn from hook to hook as part of my spinning process. I think this will help me get more adjusted to my Matchless as well.

At any rate, spinning on my sweet, basic wheel is really giving me the confidence I need to get back in a good rhythm of daily spinning. The yarn I showed you last week was spun on the Ladybug, and the yarn I’m halfway done with now (pictured above) is also on that wheel. It’s been really nice to get back to my spinning roots, so to speak, and get in touch again with my beginner enthusiasm, but from a more proficient level.

And so, I have found myself back in a great groove of regular spinning, which is just such a wonderful, meditative way of starting my day. Not to mention the delight of producing handmade yarn.

How about you? What do you do to recapture your mojo, your momentum, or your enthusiasm for your crafty or creative pursuits? I’d love to hear your tips and stories.

I’m also going to apply these three steps to another craft I’ve been struggling with. Hint: it’s not knitting. Stay tuned….

 

 

 

 

 

At last, I made yarn

As I mentioned earlier this week, I basically didn’t spin at all this summer. I was gone about as much as I was home, and when I was home, I was either preparing for my next trip or recovering from my previous one, and I just couldn’t find the momentum to spin.

But I got back on the wheel in the latter part of August, and I banged out a fun thick-and-thin just to get back in the groove (pics soon). Then I moved on to spinning up the prize for my giveaway from June.

This is deep stash, FLUFF MCN (Merino Cashmere Nylon) in “Murky.” I chose it as the giveaway because it reminds me of the color of the ocean in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, part of the Emerald Coast.

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It was a joy to spin.

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302 yards 2-ply light worsted

I loved working with this fiber – so smooth and silky, and the colors are so amazing. It definitely put me in a beachy frame of mine, and I think it will knit up beautifully. Susan, I hope you love it!

I’ve already got my next fiber on the wheel:

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More FLUFF! More beachy colors! More total YUM! Welcome back, spinning. I’ve missed you!

Things I did and didn’t do this summer

Before we get any further into September, I feel I must give at least a quick look back at what I’ve been up to these last three months of (mostly) radio silence.

1. I went to Nicaragua. It was amazing. As I mentioned, I led a team from my church on a service trip there – we helped install water filters in people’s homes, we did children’s health and hygiene education, and we worked with a youth empowerment project. The trip was everything I’d hoped it would be, and more.

AMOS profile pic

this is part of the water filter set-up

We worked with a nonprofit there called AMOS Health and Hope – if you’re ever looking for an incredible organization to support, either through financial donations or volunteer work, I would highly recommend them. They work to address issues of poverty, disease, and preventable death by working alongside local communities in health, education, and development. I love their model of partnership and empowerment.

2. While there, I knit for a minute. Seriously, watch:

Like I said – about a minute. I just rarely had the right conditions or energy for my handiwork. Here’s what I accomplished:

a yellow garter square

a yellow garter square

Impressive, right?

I obviously should have wasted very little time and energy worrying about what yarn to bring and what pattern(s!) I might want to work on while traveling.

3. I planted a square foot vegetable garden. 

square foot garden

square foot garden

It’s looking pretty shaggy right now, but I was pretty proud of it. It’s been years since I’ve had a real vegetable and herb garden (I’ve grown tomatoes and sometimes peppers in pots for the last several years). Despite my efforts at putting up barriers around the raised beds to keep the critters out, I’ve had to do regular battle with squirrels over my produce, but at least they’ve left the herbs and flowers alone.

4. I went to my happy place (i.e., Santa Rosa Beach, Florida).

we love it here

we love it here

 

5. I had lots of time with family, including my little nugget of a grand-niece. 

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we love her!

6. I didn’t spin. (But I’ve started rectifying that situation).

7. I didn’t sew. (But that wasn’t just limited to summer – how long has it been now? At least a year. I hope to rectify this soon.)

8. I didn’t blog (and I took some breaks from Facebook, too). The Nicaragua trip forced an electronic break that actually set a nice tone for the rest of the summer. Now I’m working on setting up some healthy parameters for my digital life (step number one – no checking my phone as soon as I wake up), which has been a good experience so far. But! I’m back to blogging for real now.

And that about sums it up, I guess.

How was your summer?

 

 

 

 

Headed to Comerica Park, crackin’ on my Crackerjack

It turns out I haven’t knit a stripe on my Crackerjack in exactly three months. Three months, y’all. It’s been a busy summer!

But! I am on my way to the baseball park right now, to see the Tigers play the Yankees, and I am doing what I can to catch up on my scarf while we’re stuck in traffic.

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It’s been two months since I last blogged – so I’m doing what I can to catch up on that, too.

Advise me :: knitting for travels in a developing country

People! I’m sorry for my radio silence! This month has been a flurry of activity – traveling, getting ready for traveling, holding down the fort while my husband has been traveling – wash, rinse, repeat. It has been intense. And very little knitting has been done (but oh do I have something fun to show and an amazing story to tell related to it).

In 24 hours – 24 HOURS! – I am leaving for 10 days in Nicaragua, where I will be leading a team of 11 teenagers and 8 other adults on a mission trip, installing water filters in a rural village, working with a youth empowerment project, and helping with children’s health and hygiene education. It is going to be AMAZING, and I am so excited. We have been planning and preparing for this trip for more than a year, and it’s hard to believe it’s finally time to go!

This is my team! (all but one) I love them!

This is my team! (all but one) I love them!

I am basically all packed (a minor miracle!) except for two major details: what reading to bring, and what knitting to bring. I don’t expect to do my usual daily knitting (getting up early to spend a quiet hour with the needles and unwinding at night with a little TV and fiber). But I will have plenty of travel time for knitting. Several hours of flying and hanging out in airports tomorrow and on our return, as well as a good number of hours on buses and trucks once we’re there.

Here are the parameters:

  1. I want to bring only one project (or one type of project – i.e., not multiple needles sizes or multiple balls of yarn).
  2. It needs to be something I can knit without having much of a pattern in front of me (like, if I can write down the directions on an index card or in my notebook, that would be fine; even better is if I don’t need to refer to a pattern at all).
  3. It needs to be something that’s not too precious, in case I lose it or it gets dirty or otherwise ruined.
  4. It needs to be relatively small (i.e., packable and not too bulky).

So, if it were you, what would you bring? I know socks is probably a no-brainer, but I’m not feeling that. I’m sort of thinking shawl (unsurprising, I’m sure), but it would need to be something that would take minimal concentration (i.e., not much of a lace pattern). I’ve also thought maybe baby hats that I could leave in the country (if I do that, what’s your favorite simple, easy-to-memorize, baby hat pattern?).

Thoughts?

(And if anyone wants to suggest what kind of reading I might want to bring on the trip, that would be great, too! I’m leaving my iPad and Kindle at home, so it needs to be an actual book. I’m still working my way through A Dance with Dragons but thinking a 1000-page hardcover book isn’t ideal for my travels….)

How the week went (and a winner)

I had so many things big plans last week – things to finish knitting, things to start knitting, things to share with you – and then the week started off this way:

Portico, in progress

Portico, in progress

That, my friends, is me running out of yarn with about 6 inches of bind-off left on a shawl I had finally almost finished after letting hibernate for two years.

This was the Through the Loops Mystery Shawl of 2012, and I set it aside in July of that year when I got involved knitting other things (which were almost all Through the Loops designs, so I was monogamous, in a way). I wanted to knit this year’s Mystery Shawl, but decided to make myself finish that one first. It was going great!

love that blue

love that blue

This is such a great knit, and such a dreamy yarn (Jade Sapphire Silk/Cashmere 2-ply). LOVE it. When I picked the shawl up, I was, of course, surprised to see that there wasn’t really that much left to do. But as I knit, I realized one of the reasons I set it aside in the first place – I was almost certainly not going to have enough yarn. No idea why I ordered one skein of 400 yard yarn, when the pattern calls for 450 yards. And I can’t find more of this color (Curacao) anyway – I think I got it on closeout. At any rate, I stopped the final part of the pattern a few rows ahead of where it was supposed to end, even tinking back an entire row of lace to make sure I had enough yarn to finish up.

Last Sunday night, during Game of Thrones, I did the bind-off, until there was no more yarn.

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Right now, the idea of undoing the bind-off and ripping back a bit is more than I can stomach. I’m going to weave in what few ends there are (I think there are three) and see if I can splice together enough yarn from what’s left after that to complete the bind-off. Otherwise, I have no idea what I’ll do.

It was disappointing enough that I actually went two whole days before doing any more knitting, which is kind of unheard of for me. Well, it wasn’t only disappointment and discouragement, my week also became blindingly busy and there was just no time or energy for any knitting (and certainly not for any spinning).

The remedy, of course is a new project:

Through the Loops Mystery Shawl Knitalong 2014

Through the Loops Mystery Shawl Knitalong 2014

More about that later.

Ah! But the giveaway! Thank you all SO MUCH for your wonderful comments on my last post, and thank you for taking the time to pass on this important information to people. Between the comments on the post and the people who shared and let me know on Facebook, there were 67 entries into the giveaway (I made sure not to double count people who commented both on my blog and on Facebook). I plugged the number into the Random Number Generator and got:

Screenshot 2014-06-16 14.23.59

#17 – Susan Michaud, who wrote: “I pinned it to my Kids board on Pinterest. As a grandmother of 8, this is good to know!” Thanks, Susan! I’ll be in touch!

Thank you again, to all of you, for your kind comments – and for your warm wishes for my kiddos for their birthday!

 

4 things every parent should know about sand safety (plus a giveaway)

 My boys turned 10 last weekend, which is amazing and wonderful and unbelievable all at once.

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As many of you know, we nearly lost one of our sons in a beach accident almost seven years ago, when the boys were three. I tell the story every year in hopes of helping people learn about the dangerous but preventable phenomenon of sand hole collapse. In the past, I’ve shared about this on the anniversary of our son’s rescue, but I’ve realized I really need to get the word out earlier in beach season, in order to help raise awareness for as many people as possible.

In July 2007, when my sons were three years-old and our family was visiting Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, one of them fell into a hole dug by other children, and the sand collapsed on top of him, burying him completely, with his head at least 8 inches under the surface. He was completely buried for at least five minutes; miraculously, he survived. You can read the full story here, with follow-up here . And read about it from the amazing perspective of Erika Weiland, the woman who saved his life, here.

After our accident, I learned that this kind of accident, while uncommon, is not unheard of; it is not a “freak accident.” In fact, this sort of accident happens on beaches around the world every year, more frequently than shark attacks do. The vast majority of these kinds of accidents happen to boys, between the ages of three and 21. Even when the accident is witnessed and people act quickly, it can be very difficult to dig a child out of a hole or trench on the beach; the sand wants to keep filling back in the hole. The majority of these accidents end in death.

While this kind of accident is uncommon, it’s still a risk, and one that can be prevented without too much effort. There are four easy things you can do to prevent such a tragedy.

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(please pin this! I don’t have the Pin It widget, which isn’t supported on wordpress.com, but I would love for you to share this list on Pinterest)

So, that’s it: one thing to do when you arrive at the beach, one thing to do while you’re there, and one thing to do when you leave, plus one thing to teach your kids. I know that #2 seems pretty severe. I got this piece of advice from Dr. Bradley Maron, who has studied sand hole collapses, but if knee-high holes are just too shallow for your group to deal with, perhaps waist-high of the shortest person in your group?

Every year, as part of my celebration of getting our baby back, I post about our experience, in hopes of raising awareness of this entirely preventable sort of accident. Every summer these accidents continue to happen. I believe that with more awareness of the risks, such tragedy could be avoided. My internet friends have been a huge part of helping me raise awareness. Will you help me spread the word again this year?

I always like to give a little something away as part of my celebration of this amazing anniversary. This year, I would like to give away something that reminds me of the gorgeous water at Santa Rosa Beach (part of what is known as The Emerald Coast).

FLUFF Merino-Cashmere-Nylon, "Murky," 4 oz.

FLUFF Merino-Cashmere-Nylon, “Murky,” 4 oz.

I love this fiber SO much. It’s so super-gorgeous and I would love to share it with you. If the winner is a spinner, I will send you the fiber for you to spin. If the winner is a knitter but not a spinner, I will spin it for you to knit. And it the winner is neither a spinner nor a knitter, I will spin it up and knit something yummy for you.

the flip-side

the flip-side

All you have to do to enter the giveaway is spread the word about the risk of sandhole collapse and what to do to prevent these kinds of accidents. Spread the word however you’d like – on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, your own blog, word-of-mouth, or all of the above. If you spread the word online, you can link back to this page, or to one of the previous posts I linked to above. Then come back here and leave a comment, letting me know you’ve passed it on, and I’ll enter you into the drawing. I will draw a random winner next Friday, June 14, after 5:00pm EST.

Some of you, of your own volition, have already linked to this story this season. THANK YOU! If you would like to be entered in the giveaway, just leave a comment letting me know you’ve already posted/linked, and I will enter you.

Thank you, good people of the internet, for continuing to help me spread the word about this.
our family :: five years ago
July 9, 2007 – the night after the accident

 

This is what a jinx looks like…

Detroit Tigers Crackerjack

Detroit Tigers Crackerjack

I suppose I shouldn’t have gone on at such length and with such enthusiasm about how the Tigers were doing, because as soon as I did, they hit the skids. OOF. And UGH. And YUCK. All those white and orange stripes are losses. I couldn’t stomach knitting them, actually, and until last night, I hadn’t picked up my Crackerjack since knitting that last beautiful swath of grey (i.e., win streak).

Last night was a win, though, with Rajai Davis coming up clutch and stealing third base like a boss. So I happily got back to knitting.

Knitting momentum, interrupted

As I’ve mentioned, I started my handspun Mitered Cross blanket three years ago, and I’ve proceeded at an obviously leisurely pace. I’ve enjoyed knitting a square here and there over the years.

But now that I’m so close to finished with the ten crosses, I find I’m eager to keep going. On Saturday, I finished the eighth square:

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I love it so much.

As I always do when I finish a block, I had to lay all finished blocks put on the floor and admire them together.

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With two blocks to go, I became concerned that I was going to run out of the cross color – a combo spin of Hello Yarn “Pallid” and FLUFF “Ripe Eggplant.” But then on Sunday night, I discovered a whole little skein of it that I had overlooked – plenty to finish two more blocks. Yay!

I started block nine that night, but then this happened:

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… I ran out of the background yarn. Thankfully, I have plenty of the unspun fiber (Hello Yarn “Parritch”) in my stash. A couple of years ago, I became convinced that I didn’t have enough, and two or three kind spinners destashed to me.

So now I need to quit knitting and get to spinning, if I want to finish this project anytime soon. Which I do!