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.

In the kitchen, BRB

I had a different post all planned for today but could never make it to the computer long enough to get it finished. The evening has been spent in preparations for the hosting we are about to do – family will be arriving tomorrow night, and on Thursday we will be 13 for dinner!

  
More soon!

Sunday Shawl Progress

I haven’t had a lot of time for crochet this week, but still the shawl grows:

  
I guess I’m having some tension issues, because I’ve got a little wing thing going on, but I’m going to press on anyway, and try to be more mindful. My stitch count is also a little off. I obviously still have a lot to learn when it comes to crochet.

But I’m very much enjoying the pattern as well as watching how fast crochet grows.

  
The yarn is Knit Picks Swish, acquired years and years ago for a Tubey sweater (remember that pattern), which I never got around to. Now I’m glad about that, because I am really pleased with how it’s turning out in the shawl.

Since it’s called the Sunday Shawl, it only seems fitting that I spend some time today (Sunday) on it, yes? Yes, I think I shall.

Winter is Coming (A Spinalong)

Snow is coming down hard here today, and I would love nothing more than to just curl up with coffee and crafts and be cozy all day. But today is a writing day for me (so, a different kind of crafting, plus there will still be coffee). At the end of the day, I hope to get back to this:

This is my current spin-in-progress, Southern Cross Fibre “Winter” on Eider. I’ve never spun Eider before, but I’m finding it quite similar to Shetland, which is to say, I LOVE IT.

I’m participating in the November/December spinning challenge in the Southern Cross Fibre forum on Ravelry. The theme is “winter is coming.” Here’s my photo inspiration for this spin:

A long winter’s night, featuring the same gorgeous deep blues, purples, and greens in this fiber. I’m spinning this up to become the weft for a winter scarf, so that’s in keeping with the wintry theme as well.

I hope you are staying cozy and warm, and enjoying a happy weekend.

The Almost Perfect Sweater (Handspun Laurie)

This summer, I had a brief lull between major events in the life of my family. That lull neatly corresponded with Tour de Fleece, so I spun and spun and spun, ending up with more finished yarn than during any previous Tour.

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I was especially excited about the pound of Hello Yarn “Gobbler” on Cheviot. A wooly wool similar to Shetland, this was a delight to spin.

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I spun it with a sweater in mind, thinking these colors would be absolutely perfect for fall.

I cast on during my family’s staycation in mid-August. The following week, I knit my little heart out in the waiting area while my husband had surgery.

In June, my husband was diagnosed with moderately aggressive prostate cancer. The diagnosis was scary and the surgery to remove it was major, but everything went very well and his prognosis is excellent. The pathology report indicated that the cancer was confined to the prostate and that the surgery got it all.

But before we got to that point, the summer was fraught with worry. My knitting was a good companion during the time of waiting; this sweater has a lot of hope stitched into it.

I wanted a sweater pattern that was simple, slouchy, and textured. The Laurie pattern looked like it would fit the bill, and mostly, it did. I love the wide neck, and the intriguing sweater construction. After the neck, the knitting is just round and round, with the tiniest bit of texture to keep things interesting.

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One of the things that drew me to the pattern was its shape – a little slouchy, a little boxy. But that’s also what kept it from being totally perfect. Because once I finished and put it on, it looked too boxy. There’s a whole bunch of weird extra fabric in the back (almost like wings), and no way to fix that by taking in the sides because it’s seamless.

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At first, I thought the problem was with my execution – perhaps I picked a size too large, or maybe it was the fact that I was knitting with a heavier weight of yarn (worsted as opposed to DK, with my stitch count adjusted for my gauge). But the more I studied the pattern photos and pictures other people have posted of their sweater, the more I realized that, no, it’s a feature of the sweater. Everyone seems to pose their way around it – with arms crossed, or hands on hips holding the sweater in closer, for instance – but if you look more closely, you will see the extra fabric in the back on some pictures.

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If I pose like this, you can’t see the extra back fabric, right? (ironic duck face distracts the eye even more)

At first I was pretty disappointed. It was a lot of knitting (not to mention spinning) to end up looking like a blob.

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Blobbiness emphasized by horizontal stripes!

But my husband has convinced me that it looks better than I thought, and that not everything has to be the most flattering things I’ve ever worn.

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I can always rip back to the armpits and decrease several stitches at the bust, to see if that helps. But for now, I’m going to keep wearing it as is.

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Because it is so comfortable, and so cozy, and the colors are so yummy.

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I wore it to Rhinebeck, so it also reminds me of super-happy times with a sisterhood of knitters.

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It’s not everything I wanted it to be, but it’s almost everything. And it’s basically almost perfect. And for now, that’s good enough.

 

Do Not Like

A broken hand is such a pain, y’all. And the pain from the broken bone is the least of it, actually. The worst of it is the discomfort of the splint, and how it limits me (especially with respect to knitting and typing, but also with respect to lifting weights, cooking, writing by hand, etc.). I had to go get fitted for a new splint today because of issues with numbness in my fingers and hand (the numbness has been kind of scary), and the new splint seems even more uncomfortable than the old one. Hand shenanigans also conspired against my previously planned post for today. I hope to be back tomorrow with a finished knit to show you.

In the meantime, I’m giving the broken hand experience a big old thumbs-down.

Trying my hand at something different

I decided to see if I’m able to crochet with a splinted broken hand and it turns out I am! It’s not graceful or smooth or fast – which is to say, it’s not much different from how I crochet when I’m not injured!

First I tried an idea I’ve had for awhile, to crochet a cowl out of this handspun:

  
Turns out the stitch I have in mind for this project is just too fiddly for managing with a splint. So instead, I started a project I’ve had my eye on for more than a year:

  
Sunday Shawl by The Little Bee. I’m pretty excited about this project, and it’s always amazing to me to see how fast crochet grows.

I miss knitting terribly,  but I’ll admit that it’s good to be forced out of one’s natural preferences from time to time. How about you? Have you ever been forced, compelled, or inspired to work outside your crafty comfort zone?

Just keep spinning

To be without the ability to knit right now has been truly difficult for me. But I am so grateful that I can still spin.

On Friday, I finished this:

   
Southern Cross Fibre Shetland in “Beltane,” chain-plied for socks for one of my sons. This would be for a Christmas present but I doubt I’ll have enough time to knit them after I get out of this splint.

 
But the yarn is ready when I am!

Then Friday night, I watched the third Lord of the Rings movie with the youth at my church. It is so long that I managed to spin an entire four ounces during it. And the movie still wasn’t done!
I started with this:  
 Southern Cross Fibre Bond in “Esmerelda,” picked by my other son for slippers (which would also be for Christmas if my hand weren’t  broken).

  
I spin it as a fat 2-ply, and I love how it turned out.

To paraphrase from a certain fish we all know: When life gets you down, you know what you gotta do? Just keep spinning, just keep spinning, just keep spinning, spinning, spinning.