Archive | August 2017

Zuzu’s Petals

I started the week on a high note, finishing my Zuzu’s Petals cowl on Sunday. It was a fast knit, but not quite simple enough for lunchtime knitting. I could definitely see myself making another one. It seemed a little small at first, but then, through the magic of blocking, it became the perfect size, and quite magnificent!


I love the lace, the points, the colors. I love how easy it is to wear, giving you the look of a shawl with the ease of a cowl. This was the perfect way to use this special skein, a souvenir yarn from our first college visit with the girl.

Pattern is Zuzu’s Petals. Yarn is Ella Rae Lace Merino DK, in color 206. I used about 3/4 of the skein, and that was adding two rows at the end too. I’m not sure I’d make it any bigger.

Something else fun: when I finished this project, I officially had zero WIPs! It was the craziest feeling. It was satisfaction in a job well-done, plus the exhilaration of knowing I could cast on for whatever I wanted with no guilt. I don’t know if I’ll ever experience it again, and it didn’t last long: I cast on a new sock Sunday night, so I’d have it ready for Monday lunchtime knitting.

Have you ever finished all your WIPs at one time?

Grief Redux

Grief is a tricky thing, isn’t it? You think you’re making progress, and really, you probably are, and then something comes along and takes you by surprise and kicks you in the gut. And when that happens, it can feel as hard and as fresh as when the grief was new.

I lost my dad a little over five years ago. No. No more euphemisms. I didn’t lose him. My dad died in April of 2012. I’ve been able to say that, in my head and out loud, for quite a while now, without needing to cry or feeling the sharp twinge in my heart. I felt like that was progress. Still do, actually. It took a long time to move past the vague euphemisms, and when I did, it often made me tear up just to say it.

So, yeah. I’ve been making progress, doing well. I’m happy. My life is full and rich, with as many up as downs. I still think of my dad every day but not with the sharp pain, more like a faint ache that I know will always be there. Some days it’s stronger than others, but it’s not crippling. It’s just…a brief sadness.

I’ve recently gotten back to my pen hobby. For years, I’ve collected pens. At first it was any fun pen, but it’s gotten more refined, and now I think it’s fair to say I’m a pen snob. I love beautiful, high-quality pens. I love gorgeous fountain pens. And when I was cleaning out my collection, culling some I no longer wanted, I started poking through all the pen boxes I’ve got, and I found the box for my MontBlanc. Inside, I found a letter from my dad, from when he gave me the pen for Christmas one year. It was a company gift and he’d used it for years, until passing it on to me.

That letter ripped off the scab a bit, and it hurts. I miss my dad. He was a wonderful man, a kind and gentle person who gave everything to make his family happy.  There’s so much I wish I could share with him now. And I can’t, and that sucks so much. I’d gotten to a point where I didn’t remember how much it sucked, and being reminded is…not fun.

But I’m grateful to have the letter, which I’ve tucked back inside the box to discover again in a few years. And until then, I’ll write with his pen and remind myself how lucky I was to have him as long as I did.

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Finishing Everything

This has been a very productive week, friends. I decided I needed to make a big push to finish the second baby blanket, as it is nearing fall and the babies are two months old now. I finished it Thursday and it is currently being prepped for blocking. Here it is unblocked:

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This one made for easy, mindless knitting, which also made for boring knitting. Nevertheless, it is lovely and should be nice and cozy for the little boy who will be receiving it. Now I’m only hoping that the two blankets are roughly the same size after they are blocked. We shall see. This pattern is the Garter Rib Baby Blanket and the yarn is KnitPicks Swish Worsted Brights in Razzleberry.

With the blanket done, I could turn back to socks, and I quickly finished the second sock I had on my needles.

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I ran out of the blue and only had the gray with me to finish the toe, so the second sock had the contrast toe as well (which is what I’d intended in the beginning anyway). So they don’t match that way, but they’re the same size! Almost exactly! I believe that’s the first time I’ve done that with socks. These are Blueberry Waffle Socks  in KnitPicks Stroll Glimmer in Peacock and Chrome. I quite like this yarn; it’s lovely and soft and sparkly.

Well, finishing those two things felt so good, I decided to keep finishing. I had my Harvest cardigan that had been sitting around for four months, waiting only for sleeves. Again, fall is coming. Wouldn’t I rather have a cardigan to wear than one to stare at? Yes. Yes, I would. I started knitting sleeves, and discovered that sleeves are also very boring to knit. But I had a little movie marathon and knit around and around and around and finally by 6:30, I had a complete cardigan! YAYYYYY! Sadly, I also had approximately twenty million ends to weave in. Still, I conquered those in time to have the husband take a photo before daylight was gone.

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It’s too big (I was between sizes and opted for the larger one) and there’s a faint stripe from before I started alternating skeins from different dye lots, but it’s a wearable sweater. It’s warm and cozy, and full of satisfaction. I MADE that. With my own two hands! And that feels pretty damn good. Mind you, I don’t know that I’ll ever do it again, given that it took forever and wasn’t the most interesting project at times, but who knows. Never say never, right?

This yarn (Universal Yarn Cotton Supreme Splash in Plum Blanket) and I have a long history. I bought the first few skeins back in April of 2014 to make a cardigan. I cast on for a Lilas Cardigan but too soon succumbed to the boredom of endless stockinette and set it aside. I had a couple more short bouts with it before finally frogging it early last year. I decided it would become a new sweater, and I chose the Harvest cardigan by Tin Can Knits for its simplicity to make and ease to wear. I cast on over six months ago and all went smoothly for a bit, until I moved into a skein purchased after the first batch. Yes, a noticeable difference. It went in timeout while I ordered more yarn. I knew it would be a different dye lot, and I would have to alternate skeins. I couldn’t bring myself to frog all the way back, though, and I think I can leave with that pale stripe. So here it is, over three years after first trying to become a cardigan, something I can wear! I’ve learned a lot, mostly to buy a sweater quantity all at once. That whole alternating skein thing was a pain in the butt.

Whew! Three FOs in one week! That left me with three WIPs. One is another blanket, which I moved to Hibernation until it gets cooler. One is my lace Zuzu’s Petals, which I’m eager to get back to. And the last one is Miss Winkle, which I started at the end of December. 8 months ago.  I didn’t really enjoy the knitting, but it’s such a cute pattern, and the loops truly are adorable.

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But. OMG. Making those loops?? I found it really tedious. Much like short rows, I liked the look but found myself getting annoyed at having to stop my knitting groove to make these long strips that made a loop. This morning, while I was lying in bed trying to decide whether to get up, I realized I was dreading having to go back to Miss Winkle, and I remembered what the son had said last night while I was finishing my cardigan: “I think next you should make something you like to knit!” Indeed. Why should I spend my precious knitting time on something I didn’t enjoy? Further, why would I waste yarn I love as much as this? So, this morning found me frogging.

It was a relief. Quite liberating, to be honest. Now I can happily finish Zuzu, and cast on for some new lunch-time knitting, and not have to look at all those lingering WIPs any longer!

I know Start-itis is a common thing; what about Finish-itis? Do you go through that as well?

Knitting, Drawing, and Kids

Last week was a big one: school started back up for my kids. I have a freshman and a senior. (Look at that boy! 14 and he’s already taller than both me and the girl, even in her new heels!)

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HOW? How is that possible, when I can remember them both when they were tiny and silly and goofy? I’m in total denial that my girl is a senior; I haven’t cried yet. YET. But I know it’s coming. I’m bracing myself. It’ll probably hit at the marching band Senior Night, when they recognize seniors and their parents on the field. I can’t believe that will be us this year. Speaking of band, Friday was the first game of the season, which means it was the first time I got to see both kids perform in the marching band.

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Yeah, it’s going to be a fun year. Emotional, but fun. I’m so excited to see the girl do amazing things this year and beyond.

I have been knitting a bit lately, just not as much as usual. I’ve got a second sock almost to the toe, which is good because I’m a little tired of this pair. It’s dragged on too long.

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It’s probably dragging because I’ve been focusing on the baby blanket, the second of two I’m making for a friend who recently had twins. The good news is, I’m on the second to last skein of yarn! The bad news is, I’m tired of it.

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But I love the color and the pattern and I can’t wait to gift it. Maybe I can finish this week? At least I can if I don’t get distracted by more enticing projects, like the Zuzu’s Petals I’m making in this stunning Ella Rae Lace Merino DK. Yes, it really is THAT BRIGHT!

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Yum! I just love it! And I just realized the blue theme I’ve got going in my knitting. No wonder I’m itching to cast on something new; I need some variation! I’m also ready for fall knits: bulky cowls, thick merino, hats, mittens…

Yesterday we were kid-free for a bit so the husband and I went on a fun creative date. In cleaning out my craft room yesterday, I discovered a vintage Parker pen. It belonged either to my dad or my husband’s grandmother (and yes, I do feel bad not remembering). I knew it was a Parker, and a bit of research told me it was a Vector, but I couldn’t get it open to put in a refill.

Well, that required a visit to the Pen Place. The kind woman had special pliers that could loosen the  body without damaging the pen, and of course she had refills available too. Despite finding two pens I really liked (both Lamy; I’m drawn to the smooth writing) I resisted and only bought some fun color ink cartridges. It was tough. And really only happened because my birthday is coming up so I know I have gifts coming my way!

After the pen store, we visited Blick Art Materials, since I’ve got this hankering to learn to draw. That, and I’ve always loved browsing through art supplies. That’s probably the only reason I want to to learn to draw: to be able to use all the pretty things!

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Again, I practiced restraint and purchased just two drawing pencils instead of the nifty set of eight in the metal tin. I’ve decided to earn those; they can be my treat when I improve a bit, if I still enjoy the process. What I like about this book is the encouragement that really counters my self-doubt, and the emphasis on the process rather than the final drawing. I went through the first two lessons and then my assignment was to draw three things that are special to me. The first attempts were pretty rough and discouraging, to be honest. But I kept going, and my kind family encouraged me and gave me a few pointers, and at the end of the evening I had this:

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And that pleases me! Although, looking at it now, I see a bit I can do differently to make it better. Maybe I need to try again today!

So many crafts, so little time. Sigh.

Thoughts on Creativity

It’s only within the last few years that I’ve been able to think of myself as a creative person. I always thought creative people were the artists, the clothing designers, published authors, the people who can bring things to life just from their mind. Me? I wrote stories that didn’t go anywhere. I made jewelry for a few years, then I scrapbooked for a few years. I knit and crochet, but I use other people’s yarns and other people’s patterns and just replicate them.

But guys, you know what? I AM creative. I write stories that haven’t been written before, about characters I make up. I have three complete manuscripts. Three full-length book-type things. Sure, they haven’t been published. Doesn’t mean they’re not creative. And it doesn’t mean they’re not worthwhile. Maybe those were just the ones I needed to get out before writing The One.

I’m always struggling with self-worth as far as writing goes, swinging from “Yes! I’m a great writer!” to “Who do I think I am, thinking someone else will want to read this?” Because I’ve never published a book, I think I’m not a writer. Well. That’s dumb. And I just have to keep telling myself that. I’ve been writing since I was a kid. I’ve written short stories and novel-length stories and filled a dozen journals and I’ve kept this blog for three years now. I don’t write every day, but I keep coming back to writing. I am a writer.

Wow. It wasn’t until I wrote that, that I realized how true it is. I keep coming back to writing.

With my yarn, I put colors and textures and patterns together. I’m the one who chooses what will go with what. I don’t think I’ve ever used the recommended yarn for any pattern, and I don’t think I’ve ever even made a pattern in the same color(s) as the designer. I take their ideas and put my own spin on them. That IS creative.

And for a while now, I’ve been trying to figure out how to combine the yarn and the writing. I want to write a book where yarn/knitting is a focal point. I’ve tried, and it hasn’t worked yet. But I’m going to keep trying.

I don’t know why, but I am flush with creative energy right now, and it feels awesome. The focus has turned away from knitting and back toward writing, but that’s kind of typical for me. I tend to focus obsessively on one thing for a while, then move on. I’m not done with knitting, not at all! I spent three hours at a football game last night and was delighted to have the time to knit on the baby blanket. But in the evenings, or weekends like this, my brain is gravitating toward writing.

Not just writing, either. I’ve always wished I could draw well, and I always told myself I just couldn’t do it. Then a few days ago I was admiring a selection of drawing books and the husband said, “Why don’t you try it? You never know.” And for some reason, this time I agreed. Why not, indeed. I didn’t have to show anyone if I didn’t want to. I might not be great. But what if I could make pictures that pleased me? That would be pretty cool. So I might be heading to the library to check out some how-tos for beginners (if you have recommendations, please share!) and I’ve got a little sketch pad and a drawing pencil itching to be used. And because it’s uncomfortable and scary for me, I’m going to share my first attempt, a cube copied from a book.

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It’s not great. It’s a first attempt. I don’t think it’s going to come naturally to me the way it does for my kids, or the way writing does to me. I’m not going to be the next big artist, and that’s all right. For me, it’s okay that it’s recognizable, and it was fun.

I guess what I take from all of this is that I’m redefining what success means to me. Success is about the leap, the journey, the effort. And I don’t want to be afraid of success anymore.

Anniversary Mini-Break

Today, the husband and I celebrate 20 years of marriage. Yep, two whole decades. That’s half my life. And the majority of those years have been pretty darn good, so I think we’re  lucky. To mark the occasion we both took the day off work, spent last night at our favorite B&B (Southmoreland on the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City), and spent today antiquing. We were hoping to find more Mission-style furniture for our house, but didn’t find a thing. We hit a couple of small towns that were kind of sad and run-down, though we did find a bookstore. And look what I found at one of the antique stores:

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A yarn section!! It wasn’t a great selection but I still walked out with two lovely skeins of sock yarn:

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And at another antique store, I found these little goodies. I didn’t need either of them, but at $2 each, they still came home with me.

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We were a little discouraged at not finding any furniture treasures, but we ended the day in Parkville, MO, and found an awesome store called Cool Vintage Watches. They had watches, of course, but they also had several vintage pens too. I really liked the silver/gold Montblanc ballpoint, but that didn’t really fit my budget. Instead I brought home this beauty.

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It’s a Sheaffer Targa 1020 M in Imperial Brass with a 14k gold nib. It came with the converter but also takes cartridges, and since I don’t have any bottled ink, I put in one of those and it writes like a dream.

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The pen is in beautiful shape. I can’t find a flaw anywhere. Plus, I already had a stainless steel Targa, so it pleases the completist in me to have a brass one as well.

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It came with this nifty brass case, which has only a couple of tiny scratches on the bottom.

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So, yeah, happy anniversary to me, right? I’m really pleased with my finds, and it was a treat to spend a relaxing day with the husband. We don’t get those as often as we’d like!

Raishan Blanket

Yesterday was rainy and cool, and I was able to spend it all indoors doing whatever I chose. And mostly I chose to knit and cuddle with puppers, especially Jack.

 

I watched Southside With You (good movie, man who played Barack was especially great) and The Green Mile (one of our favorites, but the boy watched it for the first time) and Supernatural (not my choice, the girl’s). By the end of day, I was weaving in ends!

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This project took a month and three days, but because I’m not a huge fan of making blankets, it felt like longer. Still, I’m delighted with the finished piece. The photos don’t show how neon-bright the green really is!

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Pattern is Raishan by Laura Cameron, and it was well-written, interesting, and fun to knit. Yarn is Knit Picks Swish Worsted Brights in Sour Apple. I used almost all of seven skeins after making some modifications to the pattern. You can see my Rav page here.

And now, because this is for one twin, I need to knit another baby blanket. I’m doing the same yarn in Razzleberry, a bright blue, but a different pattern. This time I’m doing a garter rib blanket, something simple enough I can take to work for lunch-time knitting, and maybe it will go faster. A girl can dream, right?

Today, the girl is at work and the boys are off getting haircuts, so I have a rare morning with the house to myself. I’m off to knit in peace and quiet!