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The Joys of a Fixer Upper

Summer in Missouri often means thunderstorms. Spring brings tornadoes; summer brings thunder and lightning, hail and strong winds. You put those against a giant old tree, and sometimes the thunderstorm wins. We had just turned off our lights at 9:30 pm Thursday evening (we’re getting old, we get tired early) and were listening to the wind beat hail against our windows when suddenly we heard a crack and a loud bang. We jumped out of bed and were heading downstairs when we realized the power was out. Thanks to the flashlight on the phone, we could make out a large limb laying across our back yard, and while we couldn’t really see the power lines, obviously the tree had pulled them down. We called the power company and they came out within an hour or so. It was hot and stuffy inside, and too quiet at first, since we sleep with a ceiling fan and white noise. Then as the guys started working, it was too loud. It was a long, mostly sleepless night for me. I was up around 5:30, going out to investigate. This is what I saw:

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Yikes, right? It had pulled down the lines, which in turn pulled down at least one pole, so they had to replace the pole, plus chop away some of the branches to free the lines. At least four of our neighbors were out of power too. I could shower, but not blow-dry or straighten my hair. I could eat cereal, but not make tea. It was an interesting morning. The dogs were quite delighted with their new stick, though.

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So, yeah. That’s fun. Even now, it still surprises me a little when I look out and see it out there. It’s just so … incongruent. We’ve contacted someone to haul away the broken limbs and are going to get an arborist out to see if we can save the tree. It really is a magnificent tree, and I’d hate to lose it. Plus, well, that would be damn expensive and I’d rather avoid it if possible.

Really, this house is doing its best to bring me down. Before this tree incident, we had a smaller tree lose some limbs, we’ve had raccoons in the attic, we’ve had birds and/or squirrels in the soffits, and we found out the addition in the back of the house needs significant work, like possibly even demo and rebuild. I am discouraged. I love the potential this house has; I think it has gorgeous bones. I love its history. Here’s a photo we just got of our house in 1925, when it was a mere five years old.

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How wonderful it would be if we could restore it to its former glory! But there’s just so much. The back of the house needs renovating, the floors ALL need repair/refinishing, the windows need work, the exterior badly needs to be painted, the porch and stairs need to be fixed/replaced. The landscaping needs to be redone. The upstairs bathroom needs to be gutted and redone. And those are just the big jobs; there are tons of little ones that add up and overwhelm me if I think about them. Lately I’ve just been seeing this house as a money pit and wondering how long I can put up with it.

I’ve been told not to worry, told that if I’m overwhelmed, it’s because my depression has crept back into my brain and I just need to deal with that. (Which I am. Better living through drugs. They’re helping quite a bit.) But I disagree. Yes, I have recognized that my anxiety has been stronger/quicker lately, and I’m trying different ways to manage it. And I know the depression/anxiety don’t help me deal with the worries. But the truth is that I would worry nonetheless. I am a worrier. Always have been, always will be. Is it really that unusual, to be overwhelmed by a large number of big/expensive list of projects?

I do agree that being overwhelmed can make one stagnant. It’s hard to tackle that list if you don’t know where to start. So we’ve picked a starting point: the front stairs. They’re cracked, sagging, and peeling, and we see them every day when we come home. Plus they’re not totally stable. We just need to find a good contractor and get a bid, and hope that we have enough money to pay for it once we pay for this darn fallen tree thing. And maybe once we fix one thing, it will motivate us to keep going, and we’ll just slowly go one job at a time. Bird by bird, right? And someday maybe we’ll get the house close to as beautiful as it used to be.

Sorry, this post was a bit more of a downer than I set out to write. I’ll finish with something happier: new socks! Apparently I can make two socks per week, so I have one easy one for travel knitting, and one more complicated one for home.

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This is the easy one, just finished this morning. Pattern is Vanilla Latte Socks, yarn is Plymouth Yarns Stiletto. I love the little metallic glint!

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I really love this one! Pattern is Sylphrena Socks, yarn is Done Roving Yarns Frolicking Feet, which is so squishy and marvelous. I’ll definitely take better photos once I get the second sock done.

And speaking of second socks, I have two to make! I better get to casting on!

Stuck on Socks

I seem to be stuck on socks. My brain can’t seem to push itself beyond those four tiny needles making a tube, a heel flap, a heel, a foot, a toe. And repeat. I’m on autopilot with my knitting right now, and socks are small, easily transportable, quick to finish, and quite adorable. To that extent, I am enjoying my sock knitting. But at the same time, I miss having a bigger expense of knitting creativity. I’m not dreaming of other projects or color combinations. I’m barely feeling the pull to buy new yarn, because I can’t imagine what it might become. But I can’t NOT knit. I can’t watch TV with empty hands, or have a lunch break with nothing but lunch, or take a long car ride with only my family to keep my occupied. So, I make socks. And when one sock is done, I immediately start another.

I do have WIPs waiting. I have two shawls that I’d love to wear, if I could bring myself to finish them. But Miss Winkle has those loops that are annoying to make, and the other has a lace pattern so complicated I have to really concentrate. I have a whole cardigan waiting just for a sleeve and a half. And I have a blanket, but to be honest, I’m fine letting that hibernate until cooler weather comes back. I haven’t even blocked my beautiful Orbit scarf; it’s too much bother, and I can wear it fine as is.

Is this me saying I’ve lost my knitting mojo? Maybe. Probably. I don’t really know. I can’t put my finger on it. I know I’ve lost it in the past, and it always comes back, and I believe it will this time. And until it does, I’ll make socks. In fact, I finished two last night, and looking at them on my feet brought me much pleasure.

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The upside to not being knitting-obsessed is having more reading time, so I’ve been doing a lot more of that lately. My best recent read was I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi. Not exactly the happiest of books, but I found it engrossing.

Here’s hoping your knitting is going better than mine, friends!

Sock Yarn!

We went on a field trip today, the husband and I. The girl was spending time with the boyfriend, and the boy wanted to hang out at home, so husband and I drove out to Lawrence, Kansas for the afternoon. We spent a lovely few hours walking around, having lunch and ice cream. There was a Busker Festival going on, so there was some street entertainment, but the best part is that so many people brought their dogs! There were dogs everywhere, and they were all much better behaved than mine would be in that situation. I petted as many as I could, but it wasn’t enough. Never enough dogs! We went to a fun stationary/art supply store, where I found a new fountain pen, a Dude.

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And of course we went to the Dusty Bookshelf, where I bought a book of essays about dogs (naturally). And also of course, we went to the Yarn Barn, where I bought some yarn (naturally). But I’d left my purse at home, which meant the husband had to pay, which meant I was probably more restrained than I would have been otherwise. This is all I got:

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Just one skein of Frolicking Feet in the colorway Dancing Leprechaun, and my first Zauberball! I’m pretty excited to make socks out of them. It might happen soon, too, because my current socks are going quickly. Well, okay, so I have two pairs on my needles. This pair I started for my lunchtime knitting at work, another simple pair of Vanilla Latte socks. This is Tumbleweed yarn in the color Sorority Girl and I love it so much.

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But then once that was going, I started other pair, a fun pair to knit at home, a pretty hot pink pair with lace on the leg, and thanks to movie knitting yesterday and car knitting today, I’ve already turned the heel on the first sock.

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The pattern is called Spring Forward (it’s free, too!) and the yarn is Merino Nylon Fingering by Knerd String, colorway Hotter! So now, let’s see if I can finish these two socks this week! I think I can, I think I can…

Orbit

My FO this weekend is the Orbit scarf, which I’m totally in love with. It’s a loooong scarf with tons of squishy garter stitch, and in a gorgeous purple/fuchsia yarn.

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The pattern was wonderful and it knit up super quickly. I’ll definitely be making more of these. I did two extra repeats because I had plenty of yarn and I like long scarves. It’s easily 6′ long.

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Those little eyelet rows make it interesting to knit, and interesting to look at!

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And just look at this yarn!! *swoon* It’s my handspun from Fluffy K and it was all crisp and yummy in my fingers, and the colors made such beautiful subtle stripes. The color is called Sinister Foxy, which I think suits it perfectly. This piece is just the perfect combination of all my favorite things in knitwear, and I think I’ll wear the heck out of it. I’m not sure I even want to take time to block it!

And last night I finished another pair of socks, and they were snatched up by the girl before I could take proper photos.

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She was delighted with them, though, and that was better than any photo I could have taken. She’s had a couple of big disappointments the last several days, and one of the hardest things as a parent of a teenager is when they struggle with things that you’re helpless to fix. So, I’ll make her socks if they make her smile.

I’m outside on our deck right now, watching a big storm roll in and looking forward to it because it suits my mood right now. I can totally use a rainy day spent completely indoors. I know I’m not the only one who loves spring thunderstorms sometimes!

Wood Sorrel Cowl

My latest FO happens to be a project I test-knit for a new pattern designer, Laura Cameron. I don’t volunteer for a lot of test-knitting because I just don’t have a ton of time, but I was really glad I made the time for this one. I ended up with a gorgeous new cowl!

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Laura’s pattern is called Wood Sorrel and is available on Ravelry now. It calls for 450-500 yards of DK or light worsted weight. She used a beautiful hand-dyed merino in a shade of green that perfectly complements the leafy lace pattern. Since I’m trying to curtail my yarn-buying, I shopped from my stash and came up with two skeins of Berroco Fiora in Tybee (aka gray).

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It’s a long cast-on but once I got that done and joined, it was smooth sailing. The lace pattern was complex enough to keep it interesting through four repeats, but not so complicated that I got confused or frustrated. As long as I mostly paid attention, I was fine. I did watch TV through a lot of it, and that worked out well enough — just don’t pick something you have to actually watch most of the time!

The pattern was attractively laid-out, well-written and clear, very easy to follow. I love that she included the written instructions as well as the chart, since I’m not a huge fan of charts.

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I followed the pattern exactly as written and used 430 yards, and my cowl is a big, wonderfully wearable double-loop scarf. I think it’ll be great for cooler spring and fall days, since the Fiora has a good amount of cotton. But I wish I’d done like Laura and chosen a pretty squishy merino in green or brown. And wool seems to have better stitch definition than this cotton blend, although I do think it turned out lovely. Don’t be surprised if you see this pattern show up again in an earthy-colored wool!

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You can see Laura’s other patterns on her Ravelry page, check out her blog here, or see what handspun yarn she’s got for sale in her Etsy shop here.

Striped Socks

This week’s FO is my newest pair of socks, and I’m in love! This was my first adventure with self-striping sock yarn, as well as my first adventure with a contrast cuff/heel/toe. Can you say “Obsession”? OMG I get it now, like, I really really understand all those sock addicts now. I put these socks on to take photos this morning and didn’t want to take them off, ever!

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It helped that I have figured out how to make them fit the way I like. I like snug socks with negative ease, so I use size 1 needles regardless of what the pattern says. I make the foot shorter than the pattern usually calls for (about 7.5″ for my size 9 1/2 foot). I also like shorter socks, so I knit 6.25″ of cuff. I think I might do around 5″ next time.

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The pattern is Vanilla Latte Socks and I really enjoyed knitting it. It was perfect for my lunchtime knitting, given how much I like knitting ribbing. I adore the contrasting bits, even if it did mean struggling a bit with the stripe pattern and weaving in more ends.

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And I LOVED this yarn and will absolutely be getting more. It’s Aurora Fingering Weight by Tumbleweed Yarn. This colorway is called Confetti, and it was a kit with the mini-skein of purple. I bought mine at Loopy Ewe.

I immediately cast on for my next pair of socks, this time grabbing some Serenity Sock Weight from my stash in a color called Paprika. This time I’m trying a pattern called Petty Harbor and so far both yarn and pattern are delightful.

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But alas, I must now set aside the sock knitting for a short time! I need gifts for a baby shower by next Friday, for someone having TWINS. Yes. Two babies. ACK. I’m only slightly panicking and wishing I’d planned better. But I’m not going to get too crazy here; my current mental state just won’t stand for that. I’ve got fun colors of cotton in my stash so I’m going to knit as many washcloths as I can, and wrap them up with some baby soap, and call it good for now. I will have many opportunities to knit these babies hats when the weather actually calls for things like hats, and I know how much I love my knitted washcloths. Wish me luck! How many washcloths do you think I can knit in six days??

Pretty in Pink

Do you know how hard it is to photograph the color pink? It’s really hard. It might even be harder than red. I have two FOs to show off today, but I struggled to show the true beauty of the pink. It’s one of those that’s really best in person, but still, I’ll try.

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The pattern is A Noble Cowl and it was lovely to knit. Interesting lace without being too difficult. I used one of my yarn treasures from our Colorado excursion, my Baah! Sonoma in Pink Tourmaline. I love this yarn. It feels so nice in my fingers and is just firm enough to cooperate perfectly with the needles, plus it blocks out wonderfully. The colors are stunning too.

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I ran out of yarn and couldn’t do the full pattern, but I think it blocked out plenty tall enough, and I love the scalloped edge.

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My other FO is a delicious shawl.

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The pattern is called Frisson and I’ve already worn this one a couple of times.

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The yarn is Manos del Uruguay Fino, which is a merino/silk blend that is simply heavenly. I wanted to knit on this shawl every day because the yarn felt so good in my hands. And wearing it is just as delightful because it’s soft and lightweight despite its impressive length.

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That’s even one point shorter than the pattern! The knitting of this one wasn’t as easy as the cowl; I had some difficulties as I was getting started (you can read my Ravelry notes here) but once I got used to it, it was a smooth and pleasant process.

Today I’m hoping to finish the cowl I’m test-knitting, though I won’t be able to show that off for another week or so. Happy knitting, friends!