Coming up for air

I spent last week (and the weekend before it) absolutely swamped, and spent the weekend trying to become human again. The husband and I went outside tonight and sat on the curb to watch the moon go red, and that was pretty helpful.

Of course, since my only camera is my iPhone, the best picture I have of the eclipse itself looks like this: 

But I remember it, which is what matters. 

No more photographically ept, but maybe a bit prettier, was the beginning of the eclipse:  

    

In any case, it was a nice quiet moment, sitting on the warm curb, watching the sky, seeing the stars grow brighter as the moon grew dim, hearing kids running around the arroyo while their parents marked the movements of the heavens. 

Hey, I actually finished something (so I’m casting on for something new, oops)

Remember that baby blanket that I’d calculated completely wrong? Finished!

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This seemed to go much more quickly than the first half of the blanket of miscalculation, which was a relief. And I think the recipient liked it? It’s always a little hard to tell how much of a reaction is real and how much is politeness. I was a little worried the colors would look drab and not sufficiently cheerful for a baby, but I chose the colorway because the baby’s nursery is grey and yellow (grellow!), and the soft stony grays and beiges-shading-to-yellow seemed just right. The mom seemed to like it, anyway, which is what matters.

Personally, I find myself walking a fine line between beneficence and arrogance with knitted gifts – on the one hand, I want to give people I care about a hand-knit item because it’s personal, made just for them, with affection and care and consideration. I put work and skill into that item.

On the other hand, there’s definitely a part of me that wants to give  hand-knit gifts to show off: look what I can do! look at the pretty thing I made! And I worry that what I give ends up determined by what I can/want to make, more than what the recipient really likes/wants/needs.

But I’m pleased with this one.

As I mentioned in the earlier post, the pattern is Smooth Sailing by Tanis Lavalee (it was very clear and easy to follow, and a fun, easy to read stitch pattern), and the yarn is Malabrigo Rios, which is superwash merino. I know I should disapprove of superwash, because (in my not very technical understanding) it destroys the natural scale found on wool and coats it with some kind of plastic, to keep the scale open and ensure that the yarn won’t felt in the wash (because the scales can’t stick to each other). It also has a slightly droopy, floppy quality sometimes. But I loved this yarn for its softness, and after all, it is for a baby, so both softness and ability to go in the washing machine are important.

(But who am I kidding – I love those things for me. I really want to buy enough in the Aguas colorway to make myself a Lipstick sweater, or a Liv. I’m not going to – at least, not right now – because I have LOTS of yarn, and LOTS of WIPs, and even more in the pipeline, and, honestly, not that much use for worsted weight sweaters. But I still really want more of this yarn. To distract myself – because I totally couldn’t do that with any of my current WIPs, now, could I? – I’ve actually cast on something else:

IMG_1235It’s actually quite a bit bigger than that by now, but more about that another time!)

In totally unrelated news, I somehow thought it would be a good idea to wear a tank top on my walk today, around noon, in the hopes of evening out the slight farmer’s tan I’ve acquired from wearing tee shirts the rest of the time. I didn’t really think about how I usually walk in the evening, when the sun is very low on the horizon, and that even though it’s September, it’s still hot here because the sun is still very strong here. I have lobster shoulders now. Ow.

Current mantra

HpEgAt1441948117I promise not to turn this into a blog that posts heartfelt soliloquies on inspirational sayings artfully presented in pretty fonts. But right now I have a lot of things going on at work such that I need to be reminded of the above: the best way out is always through.

The funny thing is that when I think about it, I don’t really believe that in all situations. Whitewater rafting, sure. But if you have reached some kind of impasse with a knitting project, and you’ve realized that you hate the yarn/stitch pattern/design/whatever, the best way out isn’t through – it’s frogging the whole thing and starting over. If you’re in a terrible relationship, or job, there is no virtue in pushing through – it makes much more sense to get out of there at the first opportunity. Sometimes bailing on something is exactly what you should do.

But the above is a mantra I need when I’m facing things that scare me – in particular, things that I don’t know how to do and am afraid that I will fail at. I need to remind myself that I can’t simply avoid things that I’m afraid I will do badly or do wrong, because they won’t magically go away, and the only way to learn to do them correctly is to push through.

It also reminds me that that pushing through is the best way to get out, get past whatever’s worrying you, so that your anxiety about what you don’t know or might do wrong doesn’t take over your headspace and crowd out everything else.

James Herriot, who was a country vet in Yorkshire for many years, has a lovely story about being called to look at a horse, when his confidence about treating horses was not very high (and horses, he claims, know when you’re not a horse person: “It is quite different with cows; they don’t care either way; if a cow feels like kicking you she will kick you; she doesn’t give a damn whether you are an expert or not. But horses know.”). The horse turned out to be especially difficult, large, strong, and hostile, and also needed surgery to remove a tumor from his stomach (given that this was rural Yorkshire in the 1930s, such a surgery involved hard labor and some risk of injury). He was able to put off the procedure for some time, for various reasons, but it didn’t help:

I found it wonderfully easy to forget about the stallion over the days and weeks that followed; except when my defences were down. At least once a night it thundered through my dreams with gaping nostrils and flying mane and I developed an uncomfortable habit of coming bolt awake at five o’clock in the morning and starting immediately to operate on the horse. On an average, I took that tumour off twenty times before breakfast each morning.

The day of reckoning finally came, and he returned to the farm, where the farm hands brought his patient to him:

The noise was coming nearer; then the stable doors flew open and the great horse catapulted out into the yard, dragging two big fellows along on the end of the halter shank. The cobbles struck sparks from the men’s boots as they slithered about but they were unable to stop the stallion backing and plunging. I imagined I could feel the ground shudder under my feet as the hooves crashed down.

He approached the horse to administer a local anesthetic:

Walking up to the horse was like watching an action from a film. It wasn’t really me doing this—the whole thing was unreal. The near-side eye flickered dangerously at me as I raised my left hand and passed it over the muscles of the neck, down the smooth, quivering flank and along the abdomen till I was able to grasp the tumour. I had the thing in my hand now, the lobulations firm and lumpy under my fingers. I pulled gently downwards, stretching the brown skin joining the growth to the body. I would put the local in there—a few good weals. It wasn’t going to be so bad. The stallion laid back his ears and gave a warning whicker.

I took a long, careful breath, brought up the syringe with my right hand, placed the needle against the skin then thrust it in.

The result was exactly what he’d been dreading:

The kick was so explosively quick that at first I felt only surprise that such a huge animal could move so swiftly. It was a lightning outward slash that I never even saw and the hoof struck the inside of my right thigh, spinning me round helplessly. When I hit the ground I lay still, feeling only a curious numbness. Then I tried to move and a stab of pain went through my leg.

But there was another result as well:

When I opened my eyes Mr. Wilkinson was bending over me. “Are you all right, Mr. Herriot?” The voice was anxious.

“I don’t think so.” I was astonished at the matter-of-fact sound of my own words; but stranger still was the feeling of being at peace with myself for the first time for weeks. I was calm and completely in charge of the situation….

My leg wasn’t broken but it developed a massive haematoma at the point of impact and then the whole limb blossomed into an unbelievable range of colours from delicate orange to deepest black. I was still hobbling like a Crimean veteran when, a fortnight later, Siegfried and I with a small army of helpers went back and roped the stallion, chloroformed him and removed that little growth.

I have a cavity in the muscle of my thigh to remind me of that day, but some good came out of the incident. I found that the fear is worse than the reality and horse work has never worried me as much since then.

The fear is worse than the reality.

The best way out is through.

Robert Frost and James Herriot help me remember these things.

Quotes from James Herriot, All Creatures Great and Small, Open Road Integrated Media e-edition; originally published 1972.

More adventures in sewing things to hold other things

In further sewing chronicles, I have made a stab at making lined bento bags, for carrying lunches to work. I started with one for the husband (I feel a bit guilty because I should have made mine first, to work out the kinks, but I wanted to surprise him and do his first, so he got what is essentially the practice version), then made one for me. I also made myself an unlined one.

The husband’s, not pictured, is made from appropriately manly gray chambray with a gray/white lining. Mine, however, has a cute desert-themed lining:
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As the above pictures may suggest, the geometry on this didn’t turn out quite right. These bags’ success depends on straight lines and correct angles, which seems a lot easier on the page than it turns out to be in practice. I think there are a couple of issues (for my sewing skills at this point): first, I need more practice cutting. For my husband’s bag, I marked all the lines and cut with shears, but for mine, I used a rotary cutter and marked only a few places as a guide for the ruler. I think I do a better job getting the angles correct when I draw all the lines and cut by hand, but I don’t get the cutting line perfectly straight, so it’s harder to sew a straight seam when everything’s assembled. When I use the rotary cutter, my cutting line ends up beautifully straight, but I suspect the ruler slips just enough that my angles end up a tiny bit wonky. (It doesn’t help that there’s a nick in my rotary cutter blade that requires me to go over everything twice.)

The second issue is bulky seams. You start by sewing two big triangles wrong-side together, leaving an opening to turn the triangle inside out to have an exterior and a lining. (I was following this pattern, if you want a visual of what I mean.) The pattern uses 1/4″ seams, and I’m not very good at pressing them open in any way that makes them lie smoothly after the pieces are turned right-side out. So I end up with bulky seams, and then I layer two of these triangles on top of each other and sew through the seams again, and it’s a bit raggedy, and makes the handles sort of hard to tie.

On the other hand, I’m very pleased with my turned hems on the single-layer bag, which you can see below:
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There, the issue was folding the fabric and getting the angles lined up exactly – again probably partly due to imprecision in cutting the fabric.

(I also suspect that part of the issue is that these bags originally developed to carry bento boxes, which tend to be wider than they are tall, and most of what I want to carry in the bags is not shaped like a bento box – so some of what seems like failure of execution is actually a design flaw, on my part.)

I’d kind of like to futz with the measurements, to see if I can come up with a version of these that fits our lunch containers (or yarn) a little better. But I have also been having great fun figuring out how to make a lined skirt (more on that later), and want to try another one of those, as well as make some more zippered project boxes/pouches. So we’ll see when/if I get back to bento bags.

In the meantime, let me show you Stripey helpfully ensconced on the not-yet-assembled-at-the-time pieces of said lined skirt (there are lining pieces pinned to the pattern under there, too, but Stripey is not exactly the princess with the pea, so was happy as a clam).

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Getting to know bloggers

Awwwww – I was nominated for an award!

liebster-award

Thank you so much, nerdknitter!

Apparently the way this works is:

  1. Make a post thanking and linking the person who nominated you.
    Include the Liebster Award sticker in the post too.
  2. Nominate 5 -10 other bloggers who you feel are worthy of this award. Let them know they have been nominated by commenting on one of their posts. You can also nominate the person who nominated you.
  3. Ensure all of these bloggers have less than 200 followers.
  4. Answer the eleven questions asked to you by the person who nominated you, and make eleven questions of your own for your nominees or you may use the same questions.
  5. Lastly, COPY these rules in your post.

* * * * * *

First, I nominate the following bloggers:

Yards of Happiness

jenknittingaround

Life During Wartime

Knit Me for a Loop

I’m sorry it’s not more, but I’m still discovering knitting/craft blogs, and most of the ones I read are followed by many, many people already.

* * * * * *

Here are the questions I was asked, and my answers:

  1. What got you into blogging?
    That’s kind of a long story… but the short version is that I blogged elsewhere about different things for quite a long time (10 years-ish?). That space no longer worked for me, but I found myself wanting to ramble about knitting and crafting . . . but I don’t know anyone in real life who knits/crafts (enough to want to talk about it, at least). So blogging seemed like a good solution; even if no one ends up reading, I can work out my various craft obsessions.
  2. What does your perfect day look like?
    I wish I were one of those people whose perfect day begins with getting up early, yoga in the early sun or maybe a quick run, then herbal tea with granola parfait before a day of creating beautiful things in a serene, beautiful space. But really, my perfect day is sleeping late, getting up slowly, throwing on jeans and a cosy hoodie, then heading to brunch with fried potatoes in whatever form, bacon, fruit, and fresh-squeezed OJ (maybe with a little champagne in it). After that, sitting in a lovely coffee shop, or on a deck overlooking the water, sipping an iced latte and nibbling cookies or cake, knitting and reading; then a movie, or a walk in the beautiful outdoors, or shopping in fun and funky shops filled with pretty things I don’t need but that are fun to look at. It would be fall, the leaves changing color and the sky brilliant blue, and the right temperature to sit in the sun with a sweatshirt on. I’d end the day with dinner with friends, at someone’s house, with the chance to sit around a fire, either on a lake or at the beach. Toasted marshmallows would not be optional.
  3. What’s your favorite item to knit? Shawls, sweaters, socks or something else entirely?
    Sweaters, by far. After that probably shawls/scarves, and hats.
  4. Are you result-driven knitter or is it more about the journey?
    The results are what get me going; I knit to have the garments I want, the way I want them. The irony is that once I’ve finished a project, I think the pleasure of having finished, and the journey, is just as satisfying as having the garment, so if it turns out not what I’d imagined, I’m still pretty happy.
  5. What’s your favorite TV-show, movie or book?
    This is so hard to answer. I think my favorite books are Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye, for its merciless and yet compassionate of childhood cruelty and rivalries, and Willa Cather’s My Antonia, which I picked up on vacation once and read because I thought it was something I should read, and was surprised to love. For TV, right now I’m enjoying working through all the episodes of Anthony Bourdain, Parts Unknown.
  6. What’s your favorite yarn / fibre?
    Also super hard to answer. I love the look and texture and weight of wool, but often find it uncomfortable to wear (I get itchy and it’s too hot here). I love silk and cotton fabrics, but don’t always enjoy knitting with those yarns – not so much because of the non-elasticity, but more because there are a lot of nubby/rustic varieties, and I like smooth yarns. At the same time, very smooth cotton/silk tends to stretch out and droop. My favorite wool is probably Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light – I feel like I could knit that for the rest of my life and be fairly content. Favorite cotton is Cascade Ultra Pima Fine. For something very different and non-wool, I also love Classic Elite’s Firefly. (My favorite yarn I’ve never actually knit with is Quince and Co Sparrow – I love linen and think Quince is wonderful, but haven’t bit the bullet yet.)
  7. Do you have a favorite go-to pattern? If so which is it?
    I don’t, actually – despite being more results-oriented, I don’t think I’ve ever knit the same thing twice. I’ve considered reknitting Hannah Fettig’s Featherweight cardigan, and Cecily MacDonald’s Dalyla pullover, both of which I adore (I don’t know why more people haven’t knit Dalyla). But new projects always win out.
  8. What’s your favorite podcast or vlog?
    knit.fm got me into listening to podcasts, and I miss it. I also enjoy Woolful and Knit British.
  9. What’s your favorite Etsy shop?
    Hmmm. It changes over time as my interests change, but I do really like the stitch markers by Lady Danio at Exchanging Fire.
  10. Do you have any children or pets? Names, age, pics and all the details.
    No kids. Pets! We have 2 1/2 cats. The first, Harvey, is a blind Japanese bobtail – I think he’s about 11 now. The second, Alice Mary, is a three-legged dilute torti of indeterminate age, but who is probably a cranky old lady. (She was rescued by a vet tech after getting hit by a car, which led to her losing a leg; the vets’ office called her Granny because she was so granny-ish, and we named her Alice Mary after my granny and the husband’s granny.) The half a cat is Stripey, a local feral who lives outside but comes inside for air conditioning and good food.

    IMG_1152Harvey listening to the world.

    IMG_1068
    Stripey being a goof

    I am a bad cat mommy – I don’t have any decent pictures of Alice Mary at the moment; she usually utterly ignores my existence in favor of my husband, whom she adores.

  11. What’s your favorite food?
    Chocolate chip cookies! (Crispy, not soft, which horrifies the husband.)

And I am going to ask the questions that were given me, because I’m bad at coming up with questions, but also because I’d be very interested in the answers!