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?

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Hello, New Year

I see your hope and optimism, your big dreams and courageous goals. I see your positive thinking, your ambition, your resolved commitment. This is going to be your year – for happiness, for financial security, for physical fitness, for love. I see you wishing all the best for the year ahead, for friends, for family, for strangers. I see it all, and I cheer you on, and I hope all good things for you, and for everyone.
As for me, I’m stepping through this threshold a little more cautiously this year.

Christmas, without my mom, was difficult but not as overwhelmingly painful as I’d feared. Then my aunt died that afternoon, and that brought fresh grief for my whole family. But the funeral, the time with family, the holiday gift-giving and celebrating – all of it was sweet. And my mom’s absence was so large that, in a way, it felt like its own presence. She was everywhere I looked. She loved Christmas and was an extravagant gift-giver, and I saw her in everything we did.

The turn into the new year has been more difficult. I didn’t expect it, quite honestly. I was braced for the grief of Thanskgiving and Christmas, but not this. Part of it is the flood of memories of New Years Eve past, which we always celebrate with my parents. But more than that, I think, is the sense of how hard and strange it feels to be entering a new year without my mom. It’s like the turning of the calendar is taking me further away from her. What’s more, I am daunted by the realization that the new year may hold more unexpected losses and unforeseen grief. This time last year, I had no idea how hard 2015 would be, and how many losses it would contain. 

This is not to say that I don’t have my own big dreams and deep hopes for the coming year, because I definitely do. It’s just that I’m entering this year from a more tender, more vulnerable place than before. I’m more aware of my own fragility, of the fragility of everyone, of everything. This means I’m starting 2016 with less a sense of steely determination and more a sense of a soft heart. This feels like a good thing (even though it’s a hard thing), because it is giving me clarity about what really matters, about what lasts and what doesn’t, about what to hold lightly and what to embrace fiercely. And it is leading me to a more profound desire for real relationships, authentic selfhood, and a daily commitment to kindness and gentleness and compassion. 

I am writing this on my phone, from the road, which feels appropriate. Because I am on a journey – we all are – and even the best parts of it will pass. So will the hardest parts. I don’t know everywhere this road will lead, but I have a better sense of the kind of person I want to be as I travel. And I have a clarified commitment to be kind to fellow travelers.

It could be that you, too, start this year from a place that doesn’t feel entirely celebrative or optimistic or determined. If so – I see you, too. I see you, and I hope you will be gentle with yourself, and kind. 

In the meantime, whether you are in a happy place or hard one, Louie would like to cheer you on:

  
Happy New Year, dear readers. (I’ll be back soon with crafting!)

Winter is Coming, Second Spin

It was Tuesday, and I blinked, and then suddenly it was Friday. I’m sure I’m not the only one trying to find that sweet spot between Getting It All Done and Enjoying the Moment. It’s a tough balance to find any time of year, but especially as we move further into this season.

Waking early for quiet time to think and create is one thing that really helps me find my breath. The fact that I end up with something beautiful to show for that time alone is quite a nice bonus!

Last month, I told you about the Winter is Coming Spin-along in the Southern Cross Fibre Ravelry group. I’ve had a lot of big plans for this, but the spin-along will be up in two weeks and I’m realizing I’m not going to make everything I dreamed of. But I did finish my second yarn this week.

With this spinalong, I’ve been experimenting with using pictures as inspiration to guide me in the process of spinning. It’s been really fun! For this spin, I used this picture for inspiration:

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That’s Jon Snow’s direwolf “Ghost” (from Game of Thrones), and I adore this picture. It seemed a nice match to the Southern Cross Fibre October Classic Club offering:

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I love those luscious colors so much! This is Comeback Wool, an Australian wool I’ve never spun before. It was a total delight.

Ordinarily, I would just spin this up and ply it with itself, with my biggest decision being whether to have it barberpole or line up the colors. But this time, inspired by the picture of Ghost, I really wanted to add a significant amount of white to the finished yarn. So I ordered some undyed Falkland from Spunky Eclectic and spun that up. Then I plied it with the October Showers. I had 4 oz. of the October Showers and 3 oz. of the Falkland – I had uneven amounts because my original idea was to use an undyed grey fiber in there as well. So I ordered 1 oz. of an Icelandic blend in a natural grey from Spunky Eclectic. The color was great, but the feel of the fiber was so different from either the Comeback or the Falkland, that I ended up deciding not to use it.

With an uneven amount of fiber, I decided to ply a small portion of the Comeback Wool with itself. So when I ran out of the Falkland, I wound the Comeback with my yarn winder into a center-pull yarn cake and plied one end with the other, which yielded a nice long streak of lavender at the end of the yarn.

Enough shop talk! Here’s the final product:

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This is 7.25oz, 362yds worsted 2-ply, and I love it.

I’ve been toying with the idea of plying it one more time – chain-plying it for a really fat 6-ply. But I’m torn, because I also really like it as it is. So … we’ll see!

As I’ve been writing this, snow started to fall, hard. Maybe, after these strange couple of weeks of record high temperatures, maybe winter is coming after all!

 

Done. Just Like That.

To knit is to protest the mechanization of life, to remind oneself of the value of sitting down, taking time, going slow, being patient, persisting. To knit is to resist the notion that efficiency is everything. To knit is to embrace the value of the process as much as the product.

And still. Sometimes it’s pretty darn exciting to make something so fast you can only shake your head and marvel.

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I warped the loom late Saturday afternoon, and by Monday evening, the weaving was done. And it’s not like I spent every waking moment, or even every free moment, weaving. I did it in little bits of time here and there. Amazing!

I hemstitched one end first thing this morning. Now all that’s left is hemstitching the other end, cutting the fringe down to size, and washing it.

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If I had to do it over again, I would’ve omitted the horizontal stripes, but I can live with it. It also turned out slightly shorter than my calculations told me it would. But I’m learning from my disappointments and missteps, so they aren’t really losses, and I can live with how the piece looks overall.

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Even Louie is pleased.

I’ll show you better pictures once it’s all finished up. In the meantime, all this weaving put me in the mood to wear something woven, and today it’s almost cold enough to actually need a scarf (what is with this crazy weather?).

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By the way, if you want to see a truly gorgeous handspun handwoven piece, check out Knit Bug Val’s latest post. WOW.

A Thing I Thought I’d Do a Lot of This Year

For Christmas last year, my mom gave me a loom. Actually, it was from both of my parents, but everyone knew my mom was the chief gift-giver in our family. In fact, giving gifts was something she was especially good at and took great pleasure in. As the grateful recipient of many of her gifts, I took great pleasure in her gift-giving ability, too!

A few years ago, my husband gave me a Schacht Cricket loom for Christmas. I still love that little loom (though it has seen precious little action), but I eventually wanted something bigger. Since I adore everything else I have by Schacht (two wheels, a lazy kate, and the little loom), I decided to go for a Schacht Flip (the 20″). My husband gave me a stand to go with it.

I absolutely love it, and I got to weaving on it, at my parents’ house, right away. If you’ve ever knit a scarf and then you decide to weave a scarf, it almost takes your breath away how fast it goes.

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Before I knew it, I had this squishy handspun scarf all done.

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As you can see, my selvages left something to be desired. But the scarf was really just for practice, and for the sheer enjoyment of weaving. The warp is my own handspun Hello Yarn Shetland in “Minerals,” and the weft is, I think, some white Stonehedge Shepherd’s Wool worsted.

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I love the fringe, with that party of colors. I bought a fringe twister but didn’t actually start trying to twist the fringe until a few days ago (and I’m still not done). That’s how I do – make something and then drag my feet on the last little detail for … awhile.

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Maybe once I get the fringe all twisted, I’ll manage some better pictures.

At any rate, the process of making this scarf was so enjoyable that I couldn’t help but get started on another one immediately.

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Love me some pink and brown! For this scarf, I paired two different handspun yarns, both from fiber I got years ago from Funky Carolina. The warp is “Little Lady” on Shetland; the weft is “Scutterbotch” from batts. The Scutterbotch was one of my very first yarns (I think the third one I’d ever made, and my first from batts), and it is very much a beginner yarn. When I sampled it, it didn’t look great knit up, but it worked perfectly as weft; it’s nice and skinny and neutral and allows the colors of the warp to shine through (bonus: I still have a bunch left, for more weft).

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For this scarf, I tried hemstitching for the first time, and I really liked the effect. I did better on my selvages, too, though there’s still some unevenness here and there. I also haven’t twisted the fringe yet (of course). But who cares, I love it.

I made both of these scarves in January, marveling all the while at how fun it was and how fast, and thinking that I’d maybe weave a scarf each month. And one thing I espiecially wanted to do was to weave a shawl for my mom, for this Christmas. But none of that was to be. The year slid sideways, especially this second half, and since the end of January, I have woven precisely … nothing.

For awhile after my mom’s death, the loom just made me sad. Partly because it was her last Christmas gift to me, and partly because I never got to make her anything on it. But I’m trying hard to embrace the ongoing nature of the many gifts she gave me, and the loom is certainly a gift that, in the using of it, will keep being given to me, if I let it. And I’ve realized, too, that when I use it to make gifts, my mom’s giving is even further extended. She would like that.

So that’s what I’m doing now. And it feels really good, and really right.

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Warped

  
Got ‘er warped and the weaving has commenced. It feels really good after a hiatus of several months to be back at the loom. I would say more, but there’s weaving to be done! 

And Then My Head Exploded

Now that I’m splint-free, my mind is reeling with possibilities for making, and it turns out I want to make all the things at once.

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From left to right:

  1. Sunday Shawl (crochet)
  2. Handspun for weaving
  3. Undyed fiber from Spunky Eclectic (for my current spinning project, which I think I haven’t shown you yet)
  4. Handspun socks
  5. Cross-stitch I apparently can’t finish

I am so close to done on the shawl (one more row!) but I really need to focus on gifts right now, so here’s what I’m committing to today:

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Socks for my kiddo. Cast on last night and am almost done with the first sock (afterthought heel will happen later). The yarn turned out heavier than I meant it to, but I’ll take it – heavy worsted yarn makes for quick knitting.

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left: Hello Yarn (for warp), right: Southern Cross Fibre (for weft)

have to get my loom warped today. I’ve been planning this for two weeks, but I keep dragging my feet because warping takes so long. But I could’ve warped it ten times by now. Mark my words, internet, today is the day I’m getting it done!

Splint-free and Ready to Knit All the Things

Two weeks from Christmas seems an appropriate time to begin gift-knitting, yes? I kid. I gave up any thoughts of handknit gifts when I broke my hand. It’s been a very weird season for me, to go through each day with no knitting for all these weeks.

I got my splint off this week, though, and I’m ready to get back to the needles. It’s a little overwhelming, to figure out where to begin – I have such a backlog of projects and ideas.

But this morning, my son asked me if I would knit something for him. He said he would like some socks, and my heart melted. I already have the yarn spun:

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They may not be ready in time for Christmas, but now at least I know where to begin.

Mistakes Were Made, Streaks Were Broken

On Monday, I broke my 37-day blogging streak. Since inertia has a momentum of its own, I then failed to blog on Tuesday and Wednesday, too. Now I’m trying to break my non-blogging streak with this teeny post.

  
On Momday morning I finished the next-to-last row of my Sunday Shawl. On Monday night, I realized I had 18 shells on one side and 15 on the other. Oops! That’s quite a large and noticeable mistake – it made the whole shawl uneven and unbalanced. The mistake was actually in the previous row. I’m super-glad I could figure the mistake out; I’m so new to crochet that I wasn’t sure I’d be able to “read” where the mistake it. I know it will be quick to rip and redo – far quicker than if it were knitting – but I’ve let it sit for the past three nights anyway. I’m breaking my non-crochet streak tonight. Here’s hoping I have a finished shawl to show soon!

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).