Randomly in November

  1. I saw the sign-ups for the Bee Hive Swap in time this year, and got in!  :::happy dance:::  So excited!
  2. My own swap group that I’m running liked it so much that a bunch want to do it again next year!  So, busy with setting that up at the moment.
  3. Yeah, two year-long swaps…talk to me at the end of next year.  🙂
  4. I wrote up an exhaustive inventory of the many works-in-progress taking up space in my craft room, and then hammered out a plan to plough through almost all of them in the next year.
  5. The first WIP that will reach completion as a result of my awesome new plan is probably a pair of socks that I started back in Australia.

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  6. A newly-finished pair of socks right now is kind of perfect, given that the snow has started.  I was actually thinking the socks would be a Christmas present for someone dear to me, but my feet are freakin’ freezing, so I’m going to keep them.  Mwa ha ha.
  7. The second WIP that will probably get finished is a baby boy quilt I started almost eight years ago.

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    The kid in this photo is Penguin, who is now nine years old.  She’s drinking from the mug I received after giving birth to Junebug, who is now seven-and-a-half years old…

  8. It’s funny how you can start a project with so much excitement, but with each passing year of not completing said project how much that excitement turns into resentment and shame.  So much so that I definitely don’t want to keep the quilt when I’m done, but fear the repercussions of giving a new life an item infused with so many negative feelings from myself.  The act of giving wipes off all the bad juju, right?  Right?

  9. I’ve also fleshed out a “Baby Gift Flowchart” to help me decide what to make for tiny humans on my radar.  In this age of social media, I find that I’m inundated with the awareness of many a pregnancy, and the baby-lovin’ crafter part of me really wants to make something for every one of them.  However, given the physical limitations of time, I can’t.  So I came up with a way to shrink the pool a bit and ease my conscience.  A line had to be drawn somewhere, or I’d never be done with making baby gifts.

    Baby Gift Flowchart

  10. I’m currently aware of nine pregnancies, and of three women trying to get pregnant.  That’s twelve impending births in the next year.  My flowchart narrows the gifts down to five recipients, which is still a lot, but gives me back a bunch of time.  I am raising four children of my own…
  11. My son broke the teeth off of the zipper of his winter parka the first day he wore it.  Of course.  Even better, he broke off enough teeth that the actual zipper pull fell off, too.  So, instead of working on WIPs, my time is needed to repair a zipper in a parka.
  12. Once again, making plans is a dumb idea.
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Autumn Socks

Close-up of cuff of That Crafty Cara's Autumn Socks

The upside of having a broken foot and not being able to use your sewing machine, drive a car, or basically do anything is that it gives you more time for handwork-style crafting like knitting, which I’ve neglected for the past year during my sewing obsession.  I started these socks while we were living in Australia last year, hoping that they’d be ready for Thanksgiving; but they weren’t and it was OK.  They’re ready for this year’s feast.

That Crafty Cara's Autumn Socks

I finished the first sock while we were in Australia, but didn’t get around to casting on for the second sock until July of this year.  Our family went to Lagoon, and seeing how I was still recovering from back surgery and banned from all the rides, I set up camp and watched over all our stuff while my husband escorted the kids around the park.

I then worked on it mostly at physical therapy appointments for the rest of the summer, and finished it up on a lovely autumn day spent doing archery amongst the changing colors of the leaves in the mountains.  These are the autumn-est of socks.

I’ve procrastinated writing up a post about them because I haven’t wanted to model them–I’ve got a boot on one foot for my stupid broken metatarsal, and I had to have something done to a toe on my other foot because my feet are just whiny little pansies right now.  But I know, from previous experience, that I’ll just never get around to writing a post if I don’t do it when the finish is still fresh in my mind, so foot modeling with a broken foot it is!

Sock Modeling with a broken foot

Fabulous sock modeling with a broke footFabulous.
Just fabulous.
Limp down that runway.

I roll my own eyes at myself.  🙂

Hopefully, next week’s check-in appointment will find me wholly healed and then I can ditch the boot.  *fingers crossed*

The yarn is Manos del Uruguay’s Alegria in colorway “Ceibo.”  I knit these up for my US Size 10 feet and have quite a bit leftover.  I may even weigh the leftovers at some point so I can really know just exactly how much is left over.

I used Diane Soucy’s “Beginner’s Lightweight Socks” pattern, which is my go-to pattern, even though I really wish I could get the Yarn Harlot’s “Sock Recipe” to work for me…I mess that one up in some little way every single time, so I went with my tried-and-true pattern.

Pretty autumn colors.  Yay!

Click here to view this project’s Ravelry page.

Two of a Kind

Oh, my knitter heart is very happy.  Not only do I now possess a new pair of handknit socks, but they’re made from yarn sent by my wonderful best friend, AND the self-striping matched up perfectly!  Winner, winner, chicken dinner.

I busted out an old pattern for these–the first sock pattern that I ever knit, actually:  Diane Soucy’s “Easy Lightweight Beginner’s Socks” pattern.  I made my first socks with it, three years ago.  Sadly, that pair of socks wore out earlier this year, after many, many times of wear.  These replace those.

The yarn is ONline’s “Supersocke 4-fach” in the “Neptun” colorway.  The thing I’ve enjoyed with people sending me sock yarn is that they choose the colors, and the colors are different than what I would choose.  It was fun to knit these up in a colorway that I probably wouldn’t have chosen myself simply because I tend to choose other things.  I really liked this colorway, especially how the turquoise-y part ended up on the heels.  Mmm, turquoise heels.  It made me smile both times it happened while I was knitting them.

Of course, I won’t be wearing these in any regular fashion until we return home, because it’s wicked hot here in Queensland.  (Summer has a way of being hot, doesn’t it?)  However, I couldn’t resist the urge to take a quick photo of my newly-finished socks against the palm tree backdrop of our backyard, even though it’s kind of ridiculous to wear wool socks for any amount of time when it’s 93 degrees (F) outside.  This finish is far more suited for my permanent residence, which saw its first snowfall this past week.

Whatever.  It’s 90-something degrees in November, I have palm trees in my back yard, and a fresh new pair of handknit socks.  Life is good.

(He keeps stealing them because they make “great dancing socks.”)

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.

Getting the Knitting Cogs Moving Again

It’s been a weird spring and summer for me, in that I’ve had no desire to knit.  None.  I forced myself to finish some projects because I had all that time lying flat on my back while recovering from those lovely herniated discs, but there wasn’t a time where I was excited about knitting.  I preferred to just lay on the couch and watch Netflix movies.  I didn’t even read a lot.  I’m proud of myself for keeping it relatively together, attitude-wise, during all that yucky back stuff, but I was kind of bummed out during those months.

New socks!

But then, in August, we had a couple of cool weather days.  Very cool weather, the kind of weather that makes your toes start to feel a little frosty.  So I went in search of my alpaca socks, and reveled in the loveliness that is a pair of handknit socks snuggling around very cold toes.  That wonderful feeling, in turn, started moving the knitting cogs in my brain–at first it was a rusty creak (“It would be nice to own more than one pair of handknit socks.”), and then a disjointed series of interruptions to my regularly-scheduled thought processes (“Sweaters appear to be in style this year,” “I’ve never made myself a sweater,” “Monkeyboy has grown out of his old sweater,” “I haven’t been to the yarn store in ages,”), all the while speeding up until I’ve rediscovered my former life as an obsessive knitter who feels greatly conflicted over whether or not to take the knitting with me to the U-Pick Berry Patch.  (Yes, it’s true; and I am a little embarassed that I did have to devote a little bit of logic-making to that decision.)

But even with my brain humming along its (now) well-lubricated knitterly paths of pondering, my hands and heart were having a hard time getting with the program.  I’d sit down to knit and find myself desperately wanting to get away from my yarn after a few minutes.  Knitting wasn’t fun anymore.  Knitting didn’t make me happy.

And, finally, I figured out what it was:  Knitting reminds me, so strongly, of my neighbor who passed away this past winter.

I was forcing myself to put in some work on a vest I’m making for Monkeyboy, and as I was knitting, my eyes glanced across our front yard and into the window that I used to monitor my neighbor through during her last few months here.  My thoughts wandered to the crocheting bag I gave her for Christmas two years ago, and I surprised myself with having to choke back a sob at the thought of how she no longer has a need for a crochet bag, and wondering what had happened to it.  Then I thought of knit group, which featured little wise cracks she’d make; and then I saw one of her crocheted afghans laying along the back of one of my couches, which made me think of the bits of granny square advice she’d imparted to me over the years.  And it hurt; hurt so badly that I had to lay my knitting down in my lap and just breathe until I could think about those things without wanting to cry.

It continues to amaze me at how much I miss my neighbor.  You have all these “regular” people in your life that don’t appear special on the surface.  They’re not your grandmother, your best friend, your roommate from freshman year, or that teacher who woke you up with their words of advice.  There’s no “moment” that can be pinpointed as to their significance in your life–they were just there, silently building up memories and bonding slightly closer to you with each seemingly-insignificant interaction that you shared over the years.  It’s a love that is rarely recognized in the flesh, and mostly only realized once circumstances change to the point of no longer having it around in its normal form.  It makes me both sad and angry that I didn’t realize that I loved my neighbor like I did until she was dead.

And my neighbor is linked to the knitting part of my life, which makes the knitting part of my life hurt right now as well.

I won’t quit knitting.  (That would be so many levels of stupid.)  But I now understand why it’s been difficult, and that it wasn’t just my injury that made me disinterested in what I consider to be my most favorite hobby, over this past year.  It’s some weird expression of grief, and now that I recognize it for what it is, it does make a lot of sense to me.

However, the past couple of days have found me, for the first time this year, looking forward to knitting.  Autumn is on my mind, which raises mental images of cabled sweaters, tweedy wools, and marled mittens against a backdrop of fallen leaves.  Boots beg for warm socks as lining.  There are whisperings of Christmas knitting.  The changing of the seasons is diverting my thoughts to the good times that await throughout the next few months.

Those knitting thoughts are happy knitting thoughts, and they are peeking through the sad knitting clouds of mourning that I’ve been unconsciously carrying behind me.  So I’ve decided to take those thoughts of my neighbor and frame them in a positive light, rather than allowing my brain to close itself around the dismal interpretation of those thoughts.  I remember my neighbor’s smile when she unwrapped her crocheting bag, and I don’t allow myself to think on the question of what happened to the crochet bag.  The crochet bag made her happy, and I gave it to her.  That is a wonderful thing.  I am thankful for the crochet advice she gave me, and I’m glad that I have it to bless the lives of those I crochet for.  That’s another good thing.  And I will always look fondly upon “Bright White” skeins of Red Heart Super Saver yarn because it was her favorite color to edge her granny squares with, and there are a lot of people in this world who possess the Bright White works of her hands.  She was good.  And I got to have that in my life.  It’s just good, all around.

Autumn is approaching, and Knitting Season is beckoning me to move forward…and my heart and my hands are willing to get on board.

Life goes on.

Grief isn’t permanent.

Knitting waits for you.

In Which the Socks Bite Me

I mentioned, a couple of weeks ago, that I had a feeling that Michael’s socks were “going to bite me in the butt.”  Turns out I have Sock Knitting ESP because they did do just that.

I was knitting along on the second sock, all happy with myself for being on the second sock, when I looked at the remaining (hand-dyed) yarn in the skein and had a thought–“Is there enough yarn to finish the second sock?  I’m not sure that there is enough in the remainder of this skein…”

So I had Michael take the first sock to work to weigh it on their super fancy digital scale.  The skein of yarn weighed 127 grams, which meant that if the first sock weighed less than half of that amount I’d be OK.

Half of 127 grams= 63.5 grams.

First Sock = 80 grams.

Awesome.

I hope my tetanus shot is up-to-date.

First Pair of Knitted Socks Ever.

Pattern#216 Beginner’s Lightweight Socks, by Diane Soucy
YarnMisti Alpaca’s Hand Paint Sock Yarn, Colorway #08 “Marino.”
Needles:  US 2 DPN

Oh, the high of finishing your first pair of hand-knit socks!

In Knitter World, socks seem to be one of those projects that you have to try.  A true knitter doesn’t NOT knit socks.  But all that jargon–gussets, heel flaps, insteps–has intimidated me for years and I have only looked on wistfully at other knitters’ beautifully-crafted foot encasements.

“Someday,” I would say, “after I’m finished with my current project, I’m going to give socks a go.”

But “Someday” kept getting pushed back in favor of projects that had to be finished immediately.

I bought the yarn for these socks in September of 2009, after lamenting about my sock fears to an understanding yarn shop owner.  She placed a beginner’s sock pattern in my hands and inflated my knitting confidences with assurances of socks “being super easy” and sent me on my merry way, only pausing to swipe the ol’ debit card to pay her for her enabling guidance.

The yarn is lovely.  It’s alpaca, merino and silk, with a little nylon thrown in for strength.  Wearing these socks is like walking on kitten tummies.  Oh, the deliciousness of the feel!

I should have knit these on US 1 sized needles.  They’re a touch baggy.  (That’s what you get for not doing a gauge swatch!)  But I love them anyway.  I’m now on the hunt for some sort of shoe that will frame my beautiful socks this autumn.  And I’m always on the hunt for some more gorgeous sock yarn!  (Curse you, Budget!)

A pair of handknit dress socks will soon be in-the-works for Michael.  Yay for socks!