Peacock Pride

It’s already been a month since I last showed you some Peacock progress!  What?!  I’m quite certain it was only two weeks ago, but the blog doesn’t lie.  Time is flying.

So here it is, after three months of consistent attention.  I am finished with all but the last chart, and when that’s done I’ll pick it up and start all over again for the second half.  I’m pretty pleased with myself right now.  Slow and steady, slow and steady.  I don’t think people tend to use those words to describe my crafting, but they have to now, mwa ha ha ha.  Expectations, shattered.  Lookee me, I’m, like, responsible and stuff.

Isn’t Penguin so cute?  She was super happy to help “model” the stole for its photo shoot.  Her missing teeth on the sides of her two front teeth crack me up.  Growing girl.

I’ve reached the point where I am getting kind of tired of this project, so there’s no magical progress moments where I feel like knitting any extra beyond my daily amount scheduled.  However, I’m ridiculously pleased with the fact that this thing is growing, so I just keep knitting my pittance of rows five days a week and then rejoice over the stole’s progress.  Isn’t it funny how you can be absolutely psyched about something, but really not look forward to the work you have to do to make the cool thing happen?  I guess that’s what we call laziness, and it explains a lot of the problems we have in the world from time to time.

This section is brought to you courtesy of the month of October.

I’ve scheduled some time off from this in November, after I finish the first half.  When I put that break in the schedule, I wondered if it was wise, but now that I’m approaching the midway point, I’m so glad that I gave myself some time off guilt-free.  Just a week or two, but it will be needed.

Yay for slow and steady!

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Soothe

I messed up, big time, with my crafterly expectations for my time in Australia.  While my goals of moving ahead on two behemoth projects were very well-intentioned, I made the foolish mistake of expecting myself to stay entirely faithful to said behemoths.

Reality check:  I am not that kind of creative soul.

You see, crafting fits into my life as an anti-stressor, alongside the things I’m already doing.  It sets my teeth on edge to sit and not do something with my hands.  You’ll notice it right away if you talk to me–I gesticulate like a drunk schizophrenic.  Talking is an aerobic activity for me.  And while I view my spirited conversational quirks as endearing and entertaining, I don’t much relish the idea of what I would look like doing the same whilst watching the television.  Enter the crafting to fill my hands with something useful and keep the windmilling down to a sane level while doing sedentary activities like media viewing, waiting for water to boil, and teaching.  The Star Spangled Diamonds Quilt (SSDQ) manages to fit into this “crafting alongside another activity” domain rather well.

Exception:  Riding in the car.  In order to have the car during the week, I must drive Michael into work.  This is a good twenty minutes of sitting time that requires me not to wave my hands about (driver safety!), hence the need for a calming craft project.  I assumed that the SSDQ would work in this scenario; but, alas, the roads here are not terribly smooth, which makes sticking a teeny little applique needle through two threads of fabric ONLY kind of hard to do.  I stabbed myself in the fingers, I dropped my needle repeatedly, my work was sloppy and uneven, Michael flinched every time I pulled the needle out of the fabric and maybe just a little too close towards his face…sewing in the car was a no.  And the Peacock Stole requires silence and concentration; and, most notably, non-movement of my body while knitting.

“That’s OK,” I thought to myself, “I’ll use the time to really talk with Michael, and really take in my surroundings.  I’ll probably grow as a person as a result of this so-called ‘inconvenience.'”

Wrong again.

I’m married to MICHAEL.  I know, kinda obvious, but all my years of crafting in the car while driving along suitably-smooth American roads had made me forget that MICHAEL likes to drive fast.  Not dangerously fast, but fast enough that I feel like I’m on the brink of an anxiety attack because he does. not. brake. when I think he should start braking.  It sets me on edge, I scare him with my gasping at our impending, bloody deaths, and no one feels like they’ve grown in any positive manner at the end of the journey.  He sees nothing wrong with how he drives, so that’s not going to change simply because my middle name is “Caution.”  (Oh, the irony of being the one with the speeding ticket in this particular situation…)

I needed a mindless, non-intricate project.  Bad.  The internet problem still wouldn’t allow for some yarn browsing, and the one-two punch of international shipping restrictions (i.e. no knitting needles for you if we know you’re trying to ship them) and credit card technical difficulties made the entire venture pointless.

Enter the Best Friend.

Oh, sweet, sweet, best friend of mine, how I love you.  If this were a long, long time ago, I would pay people to sing prayers on your behalf when you died.  Which is a gruesome thought, since it involves your death, but the sentiment is nice.  (I’m a historian, and that’s what people did to show gratitude and respect for a long time, OK?)

Denise watched my online neurotic unraveling, and decided to do something about it before I became certifiably insane.  She drove on down to her local textile shop in Washington, USA, talked to some yarnies about my spiral of descent, and walked out with yarnie-approved sock yarn and correctly-sized needles, which she then mailed to me on the other side of the world.  The woman is pure gold.

Not gonna lie, I actually cried when I opened that package.  Not full-out ugly crying, but some definite “Dude, why’s your nose running?” kind of crying.  And then I ripped into that skein of yarn like a reformed vegetarian tears into their first filet mignon.

Oh, sweet, soothing, self-striping stockinette stitch.  I can feel my body relaxing whenever I pick these up and start working.  Oh, balm to my soul.  The thrill of the mindless caressing of yarn that turns into plain vanilla socks.  I love it.  I love it, I love it, I love it.  Deep, from-the-bones, sigh of relief LOVE IT.

Which is more than I can say for my son, who prefers playing Plants Vs. Zombies for his personal relaxation:

Thirty seconds later he was in a heap on the ground, sobbing because he can’t beat whatever level he’s on at the moment.  I do not understand the lure of video games.

Now I have a mindless project to keep my hands happy as I sit in the car and consciously avoid imagining our fiery demise.  It’s also nice to take out upon the deck and put in a few rounds while decompressing after a long day of homeschooling.

So beautiful, so delightful.

So soothing.

Another Peek at the Peacock

 It’s been three weeks since you last saw the proud little Peacock Stole-in-progress, and I’m happy to report that what you’re looking at is what this looks like at THE END OF CHART #6.

It turns out that Chart #6, despite being a whole lot of rows, was pretty much just a eight row repeat that was easily memorized, so I took to knitting up eight rows a day for the last two weeks, instead of the formerly-planned-on fours row a day.  As a result, I’ve finished up this chart two weeks early.  Today I will venture into Chart #7, which has some stitch symbols waiting for me to learn.

The stole is at Row #204, and there’s 304 rows per side, so we’re getting close to being done with the first half!  (Yep, once I reach “the end,” I get to pick up all those live stitches waiting on the lime-green yarn and literally knit all of this AGAIN.)

I love, love, love the peacock feathers part of this pattern.  The beginning charts with the diamonds were hard for me and I despised them, but once those are out of the way, this is such an enjoyable knit.  I really like the double yarn-over rows!  The peacock feathers are surprisingly simple and I still smile triumphantly each time another row of completed feathers emerge.  Pretty, pretty!

I talked to my granny (the $500 phone call that actually cost $17) after the last Peacock post went live, and she is beyond excited that this is finally happening.  She’s never bothered me about it not happening, and I’ve apologized profusely over the years about it not happening, but both of us were eager to see for it to happen, so we’re both just a little ridiculously excited that it is finally happening and not kicking my butt.  Yippee all around!

I’ve decided that I will not add beads to this project.  The idea has been swimming in my head for a long time, but I’ve decided that beads would just be a little too much.  Given also that it’s a long rectangle, adding beads on the ends will add weight to the ends and I think it will stretch and distort the lace pattern.  The pattern is fabulous without any extras added to it, so we’re going to stay the course and knit it as written.  Goodness, do I love the color.

Chart #7 is the beginning of a bigger pattern of peacock feathers, so next month I’ll be able to show you something new.  Yippee!

Fourth Time’s the Charm!

I schedule my crafts.  Honestly.  I sit down at the beginning of a new year and brainstorm all the things I’d like to make, keeping new babies, weddings, and the like in mind, and then I schedule my time and projects accordingly.  I’ve found that this approach allows me to finish the things that are important to me, and still allow me a little wiggle room if I finish things quicker than I had planned upon.
As you can imagine, I loaded my craft schedule pretty heavily with quilts this year.  January through May was consumed with work on the Storybook Hexagon Quilt because I wanted to be able to present it to my dear friend Rachel when her long sought daughter was born in June.  (Oh, what fun that was!  I still smile when I recall her shocked face when it was pulled from the gift bag.  That was a good day.)
And then I scheduled the summer for working on Junebug and Monkeyboy’s quilts for their bedroom, which I had planned to redecorate over summer break.  Alas, this was not to be because of the whole “let’s move to Australia” thing, but I did get a good start on their quilts.  Monkeyboy’s quilt parts have stayed behind in America; and, because Junebug is a little stinker and changed her mind about her quilt pattern at the last minute, I’ve brought along the pieces for her quilt because it’s all done by hand.  As I could not bring my sewing machine with me, having that big handwork project is rather perfect.
When I was sitting down with  my spreadsheet in January, figuring out what projects to plug into what weeks, the last halfof the year just would not schedule out.  I’d try to apply my brain to the task, but seemed to be thinking my way through a hazy cloud.  (This should have been my first clue that something out of the ordinary was brewing for our family this year…)  I wanted to do some cute Halloween crafts, begin a gorgeous Christmas quilt, maybe make a few new-baby items to stash away for when I’m inevitably surprised by one of my siblings having a new baby and I somehow missed the five months of announcements on Facebook.  But nope, nothing felt right in the September through December time slot.
I stewed on the predicament for days.  I don’t like leaving empty space in my schedule.  I know, from previous experience, that empty spaces in my schedule means zero progress on my projects.  I’m not a fan of that.
And then, a few nights later, as I was in that twilight doze right before true sleep, it came to me:  The Peacock Feathers Stole.
Perfection.  A big block of time, unencumbered with any other projects to distract me, all set aside to finally tackle and conquer this unconquerable project that has kicked my heinie three times already in the past five years.  I will knit this pattern.
And I am.  Finally:
I started working on it a week before we left the States.  My previous three attempts have never seen me progress beyond row eight, but here I am today, proudly waving  ROW 108.  I’ve never gotten even halfway through Chart #1, and here I am, firmly entrenched in Chart #6!  (Chart #6 is long.  I’ll be here for about another month…ugh.)
The secret to my success this time:  Going ridiculously slow.  This time around, I’ve scheduled myself for only five days a week, and a maximum of four rows a day.  (That’s just two charted rows, as each row is purled on the backside, easy peasy…except for those sneaky double yarn-overs that require a little concentration on the return row.)  This “only twenty rows a week” schedule boasts March 2015 as the earliest possible completion date, compared to my earlier efforts that would churn this out in two or three months.  But you know what?  It’s working, and that’s all that matters.
It’s for my granny.  When I was really starting to get a feel for more advanced knitting, we did a little online window shopping of pretty knitted things and I showed her this pattern because I thought she’d like it.  She most certainly did like it, and the proud little knitter in my heart saluted and opened my mouth to offer to make it for her.  Unsurprisingly, she accepted the offer, and I made myself busy with procuring the supplies.  Unknown to myself at the time, I was pregnant with Monkeyboy, a fact that would become known to me a day before I received the pattern and yarn in the mail, because I was suddenly so nauseated and tired that the only thing I could be was pregnant. 
Barely able to move, and super sick all day long sounds like a perfect time to hunker down and do some soothing knitting, right?  Wrong.
Because the thing about this pattern is that it’s intense.  It’s a ton of symbols, which don’t really scare me, but whoa, those pages are pretty black with ink, and it’s got funky little spots where you have to actually reposition your stitch markers in order to work the stitches correctly and then put the stitch marker to the other side of the stitch.  It’s not cool.  It kicks my butt.  Add the nausea on top of that, and yeah, Try #1 didn’t last long.
Try #2, after Monkeyboy had arrived, lasted a week.  My sleep-deprived brain couldn’t handle it.
Try #3 was destroyed by my adventuresome lad four different times in the first two days.  My nerves couldn’t take it, and I decided that I was not in a chapter of my life that could handle advanced lace knitting.
And here we are, with Try #4, and it’s going very, very well.  The Boy no longer chews on yarn, removes needles from projects, or grabs projects out of my hands and runs off through the house laughing like a maniac with yarn trailing behind him.  (All important factors to successful knitting.)  I have months upon months scheduled, thereby eliminating any due date stress.  There are no newborns or growing-into-newborns in my future, and I get my eight hours of sleep almost every night.  Perfection.

Beautiful peacock perfection.  I love it.

What I’ve Been Working On, Aside from Packing

Hello dear ones.

I fell victim to a little pre-moving anxiety last week, as showcased by last week’s post.  This week I’m in a far better frame of mind, now that we have visas, plane tickets and hotel reservations for all phases of the big trip.  THANK YOU so much for your “fast visas” prayers–it normally takes at least two weeks to get visas, ours came in less than a week.  Prayer works, period.  Thank you so much.

So yes, this is really going to happen!  I’ve waited for some email to arrive all this time saying, “Sorry, we changed our minds,” and it never materialized.  I’ve now re-focused that worry onto more productive areas, and we’re moving along at a snail’s pace in regards to packing, cleaning, and tying up loose ends.  (FYI–kind of a pain in the neck to get six months’ worth of prescriptions filled at once!)  As evidenced by this darling photo, our luggage arrived yesterday, and the kids found the event rather impressive.  I had a mini heart attack when I opened my door and found it partially blocked by the boxes, but I recovered quickly.  God bless our UPS delivery man…we’ve put him to work these past few weeks!

One of the nice things about all this prep is that I’m having to do a lot of waiting in random offices and other places, which grants me extra time to work on Junebug’s “Star Spangled Diamonds” quilt.  I’ve completed ten full diamond units, which means I’m about 1/7 done with the piecing.

It looks like I started working on this on May 20, so I’ve averaging five a month.  At that rate I should finish piecing this up in August 2015.  Hmm.  Oh well, the time will pass anyway, and I’d like to have a gorgeous quilt mostly pieced next August, rather than nothing.  Then there will be assembly, quilting, binding…I don’t see this particular quilt reaching its finish until January 2016 or thereabouts.  But it will be BEAUTIFUL and totally worth the time.

My knitting mojo has been returning, thank goodness, and I’ve put a little work into a few projects, and started THE project, my “unicorn” project that has kicked my butt three times over the past five years.  I’m going to take it easy, only allow myself a certain number of rows per week, and if it sticks this time, I should finish it up in March.  It’s a teeny little strip of knitting at the moment, so I’ll wait for something more impressive to show you a picture of in the coming weeks.  (I get a little jealous of the full-time crafters sometimes…a full workday to work on creative pursuits?  It’s almost enough to make me think about sending the kids to school…oh, how fun that would be!)

And then there’s the packing, of course.  Always.  🙂

By this time two weeks from now, we should be on the other side of the world.  That is weird to say.

Linking Up:

The Yarn is My Proxy

I’m trying to be a good little auntie.

I have a weird sibling situation that I finally came to a conclusion upon last year about how I’m going to treat all my present, former, and kind-of siblings:  I’m just gonna love them all.  More love always wins, right?

One of my sisters had a baby last week, and there’s nothing like the actual birth of a baby to really light the fire under one’s rear end to finish the crafties intended for said baby.  She had a little boy, and he is beautiful.

I’ve been working on this layette since October.  The plan was to finish it all before Christmas and then ship it so it’d be there before the birth, but…yeah.  Whatever, it’s finished, and it’s heading to the post office in the next couple of days to make its way to the chilly, chilly Canadian town that boasts one more beautiful baby boy as of last week.

The cardigan is the Little Coffee Bean Cardigan pattern, knit up in Plymouth Yarn’s Jeannee Worsted (51% Cotton, 49% Acrylic).  The buttons are from JoAnn Fabric.  I knit up a matching hat following the Basic Hat Pattern in The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns, by Ann Budd.

The blanket is crocheted, as is every blanket I’ve ever made from yarn.  (The idea of knitting a blanket makes me twitch a wee bit.)  The pattern is “Pastel Waves,” from Leisure Arts Our Best Baby Afghans, which I’ve owned for years upon years.  I used good ol’ Red Heart Super Saver for it, despite its baby-melting acrylic content.  I just haven’t reached the point where I can buy that much cotton yarn at once.  That also makes me a bit twitchy.

So I’ll send this off, with much love and many wishes that I could live closer to this new soul.  It’s somewhat heart-breaking to watch all these nieces and nephews grow up, and know that I’m only seeing it in photographs instead of experiencing it in person.  Sigh.  But, perhaps, they’ll be reminded that I care when they snuggle up in a blanket or sweater I’ve made for them.

That’s the hope–that they’ll feel my love and know that I wish I was right there with them.

Happy BIRTHday, Little Baby J.


This post is participating in Small Thing’s “Yarn Along,”
“Anything Goes Monday” at Stitch by Stitch,
and “Sew Cute Tuesday” at Blossom Heart Quilts.

New Pattern: Harmony Wave Cowl

My second published pattern to date!  This cute little thing was designed for a scarf and cowl contest at Harmony, one of my local yarn shops.

Yes indeed, it is crocheted.  And it is lovely–I crocheted it in Blue Sky Alpacas’ Sport-Weight, and it is completely luscious-feeling against the skin!  I am definitely making more of these!

I’ve named it the Harmony Wave Cowl, in honor of Harmony’s contest, and for the obvious wavy stitch pattern.  It’s a quick pattern; I whipped this up over the course of two days of teaching school.

The original creation is on display at the Harmony shop until the end of the scarf and cowl contest on December 12.

In the spirit of the season, I’m offering this pattern for free until the close of the contest at Harmony.
Just hop on over to Ravelry, add the pattern to your cart, enter the coupon code HarmonyHoliday2013, and you’ll receive one download of the PDF pattern for free!*
Share the news, and enjoy your holiday season!

*Offer is good for one individual download of Harmony Wave Cowl pattern until 11:59 PM MST, December 12, 2013.  Please visit Cara Brooke’s design store on Ravelry.com to complete your transaction.  Registration for a free Ravelry account may be required for redemption of offer.

Tweedy Lil’ Pumpkin Hat My First Published Pattern!

Because it’s October,
Because I have an adorable little nephew who is going to totally rock this hat,
And because I’ve harbored a secret desire to design knitting patterns for almost a decade.

Here it is, my debut pattern, self-published on Ravelry and available to any who wish to partake of its cuteness.

Yes, I’m proud.

Broken down to its bare bones, this is just a simple little hat with cables and a little bit of colorwork on the top.  This particular version was knit with Rowan Felted Tweed DK, which was quite nice to work with.  I prefer DK-weight yarns for kids’ hats because of its lighter weight.  Worsted can so easily get too bulky on wee people, but DK-weight just works so perfectly.

Monkeyboy is modeling the hat, but it has been knit to fit a slightly smaller child, so it’s a tad snug on my boy’s noggin.  I’ll probably knit him one in the 2-4 year size since he was such a fan of wearing it for the pictures.

You can read more about the pattern over on Ravelry, and you can buy the pattern if you’d like.  There’s just something about knitting up little pumpkins this time of year and watching little people run around with stems atop their heads.  Makes me smile so much.

Knitting Cannibalism

Last week I treated you to a shot of a pumpkin hat-in-progress.  I finished it shortly thereafter, and loved it immensely.  Unfortunately, it was majorly too small for its intended recipient.  What you see is presented to you only as photographic evidence that the too-small first version of this hat did indeed exist in its entirety at some point.

I dutifully cast on for a second try, and I’ve been churning away on Pumpkin Hat #2 ever since.  However, it got serious last night:  I ran out of orange yarn.

I had to decide between buying another skein, or sacrificing the petite version to feed the gluttonous beast that is the\second hat.

I opted to commit Knitting Cannibalism.

 I’m not sorry at all.

I garden for the knitting

For the first time ever, I have my fall flowers planted before October.  There’s purple and green kale, yellow and purple pansies, and cream, yellow, and orange chrysanthemums.  Our front door doesn’t usually get a lot of foot traffic, but it is this autumn simply because I love to walk by all my flowers.  “No, Brookelets, we’re going in through the front door so Mama can gaze adoringly, yet again, upon the beauty she has planted around our home.  If you gaze adoringly with her, she’ll probably give you hot chocolate and pat you on the head while you drink.”

And what’s the point of having an autumn flower garden if you’re not going to use them as background for knitting pictures?

Who doesn’t look at flowering kale and envision how wonderfully it would pair with pumpkin tweed?

I’m amongst the crowd of people that possess no ability to deny themselves of pumpkins.  If it looks like pumpkin, smells like pumpkin, or tastes like pumpkin…I probably already own it.  I am powerless in the face of anything that reminds me of a pumpkin.
There’s a darling little cabled pumpkin baby hat pattern making its way around Ravelry, and I succumbed to the cuteness.  Problem is, none of the local yarn shops that I’m willing to drive to for a spontaneous yarn purchase have worsted-weight orange tweed.  (Insert sad face here.)  I picked up some Rowan Felted Tweed instead, but the DK-weight was not working with the pattern. So now I’m just knitting whatever cables I want to knit.  I’m excited about how this hat is going to turn out.  Pumpkin + cables + tweed = Perfect autumn knitting.

You know what else is perfect autumn knitting?  Aran cables, paired with rust-colored chrysanthemums:

Oh, the simple joy of undyed, Aran wool, the quintessential material of knitting season.  It’s traditional, it’s elegant, and it’s cozy.  Sometimes I wonder why I knit with anything else…until I see shelves of tweed yarn…or a skein of silk/merino laceweight.

My hollyhocks, those wonderful heralds of summer, have begun to turn brown and cast their seeds into the wind.  As they begin to fold into themselves for their long winter sleep, I couldn’t resist the urge to photograph them, drowned out by the afternoon sun, in contrast to this little token of life and joy:

A little one will join a friend’s family in the next week or so, and I was feeling like celebrating its impending arrival with handknits.  Just a simple little hat, so tiny that it covers my fist with very little room to spare.  Just a squishy little thing, only usable for a couple of weeks before it will be too small.

Sort of like my autumn flowers…you don’t get a lot of time with them, but they’re beautiful and make me smile, which makes them a good thing to include in life.

Baby hats, tweed, pumpkins, cables, cream wool, and jewel-toned pansies…autumn is so lovely.