Almost Mindless Knitting

Last summer, I found myself very briefly between Big Events in my life, and I needed to knit something that didn’t matter. Too much else mattered in my life at that time for me to also be knitting anything with emotional investment. Besides, my mind felt too soft to focus on anything that required much brain power.

What do you make when you need your hands to be active but your mind to rest? What do you make when you need to feel like you’re moving forward but you don’t want to put too much hope in the outcome?

I made dishcloths. I haven’t made dishcloths in years – they just aren’t the type of thing I typically want to spend my time on. But it turns out that all the things that make me usually shy away from them are what made them exactly the right project for me last August.

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This is the Almost Lost Washcloth, a round scalloped washcloth I find perfectly adorable. I can’t tell you what yarn or needles I used, because I kept no notes (and didn’t even log it on Ravelry until today). It was just some cotton yarn I had on-hand. I made these in almost no time at all.

And quickly followed up with a Mini Almost Lost Washcloth, equally adorable but on a smaller scale.

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The thing about knitting dishcloths is that, unless you are giving them away, it really doesn’t matter if you make mistakes in them, because they will still be perfectly useful These are by no means perfect – I think the wee one even has an extra petal in there – but the knitting was therapeutic and the final product is functional, plus the colors make me happy. Knitting therapy at its finest.

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On the 9th Day of Christmas … I Collapsed

Thank you for your very kind words on my post yesterday. I’d planned to come back today and actually talk crafting, as well as do some crafting, as well as take the Christmas tree down, as well as make some progress on my doctoral project (one of my goals for 2016), as well as many, many other things. Instead, I am collapsed on the couch. I’ve been sick the last few days but seem to be much worse today, so I guess I’ll just sit here and catch up on my Netflix queue. (Making a Murderer, coming right up!) 

 

I’m wearing new jammies and sheep socks I got for Christmas. I’ve got orange juice, chicken noodle soup, saltine crackers, and tissues at the ready. I’ve got knitting nearby in case I feel like picking up the needles (right now that feels doubtful). And I’ve got a dog to cuddle with. What am I missing? What do you find most comforting when you’re ill? And what shows or podcasts might you recommend if this lasts longer than a day or so?

Sunday Progress on my Sunday Shawl

Today has been a very long, very full, very good day, and I’m so glad I got up early and got a few stitches in on my shawl before the day got away from me. 

  
I’m sitting down now with a cup of tea and my hook to do a little more before bed. I hope to have more to show you soon!

(Ps – in the comments yesterday, I was asked about the yarn color names. I answered there but will include the info here, too, in case anyone else is interested:

  1. Truffle (dark brown)
  2. Ballerina (light pink)
  3. Bordeaux (raspberry)
  4. Sand Dune (tan)

These are all Knit Picks Swish Superwash (plus two handspun yarns). 

Saturday Crochet on my Sunday Shawl

At this point, I’m having a hard time putting this down, but I have to now, because today is a writing day and it’s time to get to work. But I’m getting close to the end, and I’m only falling more in love.

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This is all KnitPicks Swish (deep stash here), but I threw in some leftover handspun for fun, and I’m loving the results.

Five rows left – perhaps my reward tonight for finishing my work.

Slow Stitching on a Simple Project

Is grief like a baby, in that once you hit the 3-month mark you stop counting time in weeks? I’m not sure if I can stop counting that way. Every Thursday marks another week without my mom, another week of getting further away from her death, further away from her life. Today it’s been 13 weeks. It has also been exactly three months. Am I ready to stop measuring time by weeks? I don’t know.

Lately, I’m also marking time with slow stitches, and not the knitting kind. With my broken hand keeping me from knitting, I have been pushed to find other outlets for my impulse to create. And so it is that I found myself digging out a little cross-stitch project I started five years ago (can that be right? I just checked, and it’s right.) I bought this pattern from sewingseed on etsy, on Black Friday five years ago. I promptly got to stitching, but only sporadically. I lost it for awhile, then found it again the following November. I made some more progress and then put away again, until a year ago, when I picked it back up right after Thanksgiving. I had gotten this far:

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I think I worked on it for another day or two at that point, and then put it back down again for a year. I guess when given a choice between cross-stitch and knitting, I always pick knitting.

But during this time without knitting, I’ve picked it up again, and I’ve made more progress:

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I just need to finish the snow and then I get to do the deer. The strange thing is, as easy as cross-stitch is, I have found the stitching lately to be very slow-going, especially those white stitches. I feel clumsy and slow and frustrated. It gives me lots of time to think and to breathe.

Despite some of the frustration involved, I’m going to keep going this time. The progress is painstaking, but, as is often the case with my crafting, it is reminding me that, if I just keep stitching, no matter how slowly, eventually something beautiful will emerge.

I am choosing to keep believing that this will be the case with grief, as well. It is painfully slow stitching, y’all, and I can’t see the whole design of it from this point. But I trust it will yield its gifts, its wisdom, and its beauty, if I persist.

Saturday Spinning

I have a new favorite fiber, y’all. It is Eider Wool and it seems very similar to Shetland, but with maybe a little more poof after washing.

 

Southern Cross Fibre “Water” on Eider


David (of Southern Cross Fibre) is a genius with color, as you can we’ll see.

This is 226 yards of DK-weight 2-ply, and I’m extremely pleased with it.

  
I’m planning to use it as weft for a scarf I’m going to weave, with some Hello Yarn Kent Romney Lambswool as warp:

  
I’m pretty excited about this project and hope to get to warping it soon!

Thanksgiving :: Feeling All the Feels

It’s amazing to me how grief and gratitude can both occupy so much space – at the very same time – in my heart. This day has been full in the best possible way and also hard – I have wanted so many times to call my mother, to ask the most basic questions (how long do you heat a spiral-sliced ham? I don’t want to know what the Internet says, I want to know the way my mom does it), and give her the full report (I finally did everything right to get the Bundt cake to pop out of the pan perfectly and intact! I did a buffet line this time instead of putting all the food on the table, and it worked so much better! Charlie was so happy we had ham in addition to turkey – just like you, he likes ham much better than turkey.), and also let her know how wonderful it was to have my dad and brother at the table for the first time in 15 years even though it just emphasized for all of us all over again how she is gone and everything has changed.

There’s been a lot of missing her today (which is true every day) but also so much gratitude – for her; for all she taught me (about cooking and hosting and mothering and so much more); for my entire family; for the amazing honor of feeding 13 people.

  
And I’m so grateful for you, too. My virtual community is more than virtual – it is a real support for me, a net of kindness and care during this difficult time, and I am grateful.

I tried to make you a little video of me saying thank you, but I looked far too earnest and also a little bit teary (which I honestly wasn’t). So instead, you get this goofy time lapse video, of me feeling all the feels and trying to show my love.

  
Thank you for being my people. Happy Thanksgiving! 

Handspun Sisterhood Stretcher (Quaker Yarn Stretcher)

Last month, thanks to a cancelled flight and some reshuffling, I had some extra hang time in airports on my way to Rhinebeck. It seemed to me the perfect time to cast on for something new.

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I had packed this skein of my own handspun – the first yarn I spun after my mother’s unexpected death, after weeks of not feeling like knitting, spinning, or doing anything I usually enjoyed. The yarn felt special to me, a symbol of hope and comfort as I began to try to emerge from those early dark days of devastation.

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Southern Cross Fibre Organic Merino, “Laurel Crown”

It was so deeply satisfying to knit with this particular yarn, in our cabin in Red Hook, surrounded by a circle of friends. As I’ve already written, the time with these women was nourishing and healing and strengthening, and just so, so good.

On our last night together, I bound off the project I’d started on the way there.

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It was a fast and thoroughly enjoyable knit, extremely easy and perfect for travel. The pattern is the Quaker Yarn Stretcher, a free pattern designed for using a single skein of handspun (it can be adapted to be bigger or smaller depending on your yardage).

The simplicity and texture really show off the beauty of handspun.

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I enjoyed every stitch, and now that it’s done, I love wearing it too.

It’s like a little piece of Rhinebeck I brought home with me, the hours of laughter and stories from knitter-sisters stitched into it.

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When I put it around my shoulders, I feel wrapped in sisterhood, which really helps these days.

Also, it’s just pretty!

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It is rare to find a pattern that is so deeply satisfying in both the knitting and the wearing. It’s so functional too – perfect as a scarf, it also works up easily in more yarn as a shawlette or shawl. I would highly recommend this pattern, and I will almost certainly be knitting this again.

raveled

 

Fashion Friday on a Tuesday: Stitch Fix Review #11

It’s been more than a year since my last Stitch Fix – I went out on a high note, keeping the whole box for the first time ever. I decided at that point to quit making clothing purchases and focus for awhile on refining my fashion sense and editing my wardrobe accordingly. This past spring, I worked towards a minimalist wardrobe centered around a specific palette and I’ve been trying to do that again this fall. It isn’t as hardcore minimalist as the wardrobes of people who limit themselves to 33 items, but for me, it’s pretty pared down.

But last month, I realized I had built up a little bit of referral credit in my Stitch Fix account, and I thought it would be fun to get a box and see if I could find one perfect piece to add to my wardrobe. Before I show you what I got, if you’d like to read previous reviews, you can check them out here:

Stitch Fix Review #1

Stitch Fix Review #2

Stitch Fix Review #3

Stitch Fix Review #4

Stitch Fix Review #5

Stitch Fix Review #6

Stitch Fix Review #7

Stitch Fix Review #8

Stitch Fix Review #9

Stitch Fix Review #10

My 11th box arrived on Friday, and my first impression of everything was very good. I had stipulated that I didn’t want any accessories this time, and that I really wanted to focus on work-appropriate tops and jackets/cardis. I was also open to a skirt or dress. My stylist Shannon kept to my requests and picked out some really cute stuff, all within the price  point I set.

As usual, please ignore my dirty mirror and messy room! All my house cleaning efforts have been focused on the downstairs, where our Thanksgiving company will be!

First up was this sweet Daniel Rainn Minal V-Neck Silk Blouse, in a deep teal – a color I had been looking to add to my fall wardrobe.

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When I first pulled this out of the box, I instantly thought this was the piece I was going to keep. And when I tried it on, I was still pleased with it. It’s 100% silk, which I like, but it’s different from my other silk blouses in that it doesn’t button all the way down the front (meaning I don’t have to worry about a gap between the buttons at the chest, as I sometimes do). It’s also long and just a wee bit blousy, so again, different from other tops in my current wardrobe.

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However, it lies a little funny around the shoulders and bust, and it looks like it wants to stay this way. Also, at $78, it costs more than the silk blouses I’ve been able to buy on sale at Ann Taylor, which also have a more upscale feel. So though my initial impression was positive, I’ve decided that I’m just not wowed enough to keep this one. Verdict: Send Back.

Up next was this really sweet Market & Spruce Kristah Ruffle Knit Blazer.

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I was suuuuper excited to see a black blazer in my box. The last time Stitch Fix sent me one, I fell in love with it and then it ended up being way too tight and I had to send it back. That’s one down side of this service – you may get something you love, but if it doesn’t fit, you are out of luck; you can’t exchange it for a different size.

But I had a very good impression of this when I first tried it on. It’s a pointe knit with a great feel, and I just thought it was so completely cute. With three-quarter sleeves, it’s different from the other black blazer in my wardrobe (which gets a lot of wear). I felt like I would definitely get a lot of use out of this piece. Plus, it has this really adorable little ruffle detail on the back:

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It’s like a slightly sheer two-tiered ruffle coming out of the bottom back of the jacket. I was sure this was a keeper.

Then I tried it on for my husband. And he immediately pointed out what my brain had selectively chosen not to see:

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Yeah, it pulls, y’all. It doesn’t feel too tight. But that pulling is not flattering. And when I looked around online to see this same piece in other people’s Stitch Fix boxes, I saw this same thing happening in their pictures – unless they were wearing it open, which many of them were. But on me, wearing it open just looks unflattering. Plus, I don’t like buying a piece that’s supposed to button but can’t be worn that way. Verdict: Send back, with a huge sad face.

Next up was this RD Style Kalin Draped Cardigan.

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It’s hard for me to love an acrylic sweater, y’all. Call it knitter’s bias, but if I’m not wearing a handknit wool sweater, I want my store-bought sweaters to be either wool or cotton. I’m also not a fan of the marled look. That said, the fit of this was kind of cute:

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But still, this one was a no-brainer. Verdict: Send back.

Next up was a sweet little Pixley Kathy Striped Fit & Flare Dress. My stylist wrote, “I checked out your Pinterest board and I noticed you pinning a ton of vintage inspired Fit & Flare dresses. I thought you may fall in love with this gorgeous Pixley striped number. The silhouette is very classic but the v-back is what makes this dress extra special.”

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I have to say, this dress is pretty cute. I love the stripes and I love the shape and I definitely love the v-back, which I didn’t manage to get a shot of. At $68, it’s a nice price for a dress.

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But here’s what’s keeping me from keeping it:

  1. Though it feels comfortable, it looks too tight.
  2. The shoulders have a little bit of puff to them (intentional, part of the style). This isn’t a feature I care for – looks good on other people, but just not my personal style.
  3. I have no place to wear something like this. It is too fun/casual/party-ish for my work but not something I would likely pull out for a night out, either. (I learned this lesson from the last dress I kept through Stitch Fix – I love the dress and thought I would wear it for going out, and I think I’ve worn it precisely once).

It’s a shame, because it’s an adorable dress, but I want to be very realistic about what looks good on me, what fits in my wardrobe, and what I will actually wear. Verdict: Send back.

Finally, there was this Paradigma Firnat Henley Blouse. My stylist wrote, “I noticed that a lot of the items you liked from your last Fix were very boho-inspired. The Paradigma henley blouse brings boho into fall with the sheer material and loose silhouette.”

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This is an interesting piece. It’s got a sheer black cami to be worn underneath, and then the top itself it also sheer (but layered on top of the cami keeps the body of the blouse from being sheer). It does have a loose silhouette, but the light, sheer fabric makes it flowy rather than maternity-ish (right? you guys would tell me if it made me look pregnant, I hope)

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I would not be pairing it with this A-line corduroy skirt as shown above. When I tried it on with skinny black jeans and black cowboy boots this morning, it was exactly the right balance between loose and fitted.

It looks black from a distance, but up close you can see that it actually has dark blue squares printed on it:

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It’s different from any other piece in my wardrobe but also fits right in. It was not a WOW piece when I first pulled it out or tried it on, but I think this is the one I’m going to keep. The price is right (it is exactly the cost of my credit), I like the color, the fit, the feel, and the styling. I could see myself wearing this out for dinner or fun, or even under a blazer to work. So unless y’all tell me that the knit blazer fits just beautifully and I should keep it instead, this is the piece I’m going to keep. Verdict: Keep.

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So that’s my 11th Stitch Fix. In the past, I would’ve been tempted to keep at least three pieces from this box – the silk top, the henley top, and the knit blazer – or maybe even four (the dress), which would’ve led me keep all five since that would be more cost-effective, and then I’d be stuck with an acrylic cardigan I wouldn’t wear. It feels good to be more disciplined with myself about what stays and what goes back, and I think I’ve made the right choice. But what do you think? I’m returning the box later today so there’s still time for me to be persuaded by other input.

*Stitch Fix is a personal shopping/styling service – you fill out a style questionnaire on their site so that they get a sense of your “style profile.” Then you pay a $20 “styling fee” and they hand-pick five items for you, based on your preferences. They ship the box to you, you try everything on, and then you select what, if anything, you want to keep; the $20 styling fee goes toward the cost of anything you choose. If you don’t want to keep anything, you ship everything back in the package provided (they keep the $20 styling fee). If you decide to keep everything, you get a 25% discount (minus the $20 you already paid them). I do not receive any compensation from them for reviewing my experience with them.

But I *do* get a credit towards my next Fix if you schedule a Fix for yourself via my referral link: here. If you have questions about how it works, you can see their FAQ here – and I am more than happy to answer any questions based on my experience, too.