happy feet

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It’s come to that time of year when I find myself feeling less than enchanted with winter’s frosty charms. I’m tired of being cold, tired of being stuck indoors, tired of being bundled up when I do go outdoors and quite frankly, tired of being tired.

However, thanks to the thoughtful generosity of a sweet friend who has a special gift for colour and an incredible ability to soften life’s harder edges, I now possess the perfect remedy for the winter blahs, a pair of gorgeous and wildly colourful socks to chase away those cold grey winter days.

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So, even though I’m looking down, I’m feeling decidedly up.

“Let me, O let me bathe my soul in colours; let me swallow the sunset and drink the rainbow.”
– Kahlil Gibran

What about you? What beats your winter blahs? Do bright colours and happy (sock) feet help you chase away your grey days, too?

Wishing you a lovely day, full of cheerful colour and the tender kindness of friends.

like riding a bicycle

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Socks! I used to make them all the time. Then, a few years ago, something in me snapped and I found myself unable to finish a pair to save my life. At some point last summer, I decided I really wanted to change that sad fact and resolved to make a pair for every member of my household for Christmas. And failed. I didn’t even get past the heel of my first pair.

Ugh, I said.

No more socks for me? I said, questioning my ability.

Then, last month, I heard another small little voice (in my head) that said something different. It said, yes, you can do socks. Try again.

So I did. Guess what?

I can still make socks*! And no one is prouder of this fact than I am.

So, with a fresh pair of socks in hand, I thought I’d show you how I reinforce the heels of my socks. Now, I know the topic of reinforcing sock heels can be a rather hot debate, so I’ll say right now, that by no means am I advocating this method as the best method, just one that I have had success with. I’ve done this with most of the socks that I knit years ago and the only ones with holes in the heels are the ones when I didn’t use this technique.

So what technique is that, you ask?

Well, once the sock is finished, I turn the sock inside out and with a darning needle and a length of sock yarn (you may need several lengths as I did), I weave in and out in between alternate purl bump rounds, like this, below, throughout the area I want reinforced:

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As you can see, I try to leave a bit of give in the yarn when I turn to weave in the opposite direction. My logic for doing this is that by doing so, the yarn doesn’t pull as much on those “turning” stitches as the sock inevitably stretches with wear.

When I’m finished, it looks like this on the inside:

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And like this, from the outside:

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Pretty nifty, huh?

While I’m at it, I thought I’d mention that as far as sock knitting goes, I prefer making socks from the toe up since I like being able to try them on as I go. My “go to” pattern is typically this sock “recipe” by Ann Budd. Then, when I get to the top of the cuff, I really like using an invisible bind off (also called tubular bind off), making sure I keep my tension relaxed so the cuff stretches nicely around the leg.

I’m kind of proud of this skill, too, and use it whenever I need a nice, clean finish for my ribbing.

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I learned that technique from an article from Interweave Knits awhile back (that I keep handy) but you can find another really lovely tutorial over at Ysolda’s for learning how to do an invisible bind off (aka tubular bind off) here. Love her Technique Thursday posts!

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So. Socks.

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It turns out that knitting socks after years of not knitting them, is a lot like getting back on a bicycle (or a tricycle as the case may be). You might have a few false starts but somehow you just don’t forget how to do it.

Thank goodness for that.

Wishing you a lovely day!

 

*This particular pair of socks was given to my husband for his recent 40th birthday. I knew he has always admired other self-patterning socks, so I made these using a skein of Opal “Sweet and Spicy” in Juniper.

my kind of weekend

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My kind of weekend involves lots (and lots and lots) of knitting…

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…listening to the kids play monopoly…

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…in between loads (and loads and loads) of laundry.

I’ve been making laundry powder for years, adapted from this recipe, my recipe (1 bar finely grated Dr Bronner’s Magic Soap + 1 cup each: baking soda, washing soda and Borax) seems to work best for my water and machine. Have you ever made your own? I think this homemade powder is so much better than the commercial stuff. The heavenly smell of the grated soap alone is enough to make your day feel divine.

So, if you can’t already tell, I had a lovely, quiet weekend with few real “have-to-dos” beyond the essentials, like laundry. I feel especially lucky that today is a holiday here in Ontario, so technically speaking, we’re still weekending.

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Don’t you just love when the ending of things have soft landings?

Wishing you a gentle transition into your week!

how many elephants*

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Slow but steady progress seems to be the name of the game these days, both in terms of my Josephine Shawl and my War and Peace endeavours. As it turns out, I’m enjoying W&P the third time around, I find I’m appreciating the details in character development and scene descriptions a little more.

As for my Josephine Shawl, well, at least its coming along. I think I’m committed to NEVER purchasing any more lace-weight yarn EVER again (or at least not for a very LONG time). Thankfully, the pattern has been providing just enough interest to keep me going. That, and knowing it will be well loved once its finished.

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Of course, in keeping with my polygamous reading habits, I’ve also been enjoying a collection of short essays and stories called dropped threads. Now I know that this book has been around for a long time so I’m sorry this is the first time I’ve really given it any of my attention as it’s proven to be a lovely book. Dropped threads is poignant, funny, honest and at times, incredibly moving (I especially loved Miriam Toews contribution). Needless to say, I can’t believe I waited this long to open up it up.

That said, the book I’m most excited about these days is Oliver Jeffers’ latest offering to parents and children alike, called Once Upon an Alphabet.

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Tim and I are having so much fun admiring Jeffers’ marvellous illustrations, hunting for letters, and wondering…

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…how many elephants CAN you fit inside an envelope? If you want to find out, you’ll have to get your own copy and turn to the letter N…

Boy, will I be sad when there’s no one around to share a good picture book with me. Hmm, can you tell I just registered my youngest for school next September?

How about you? What are you knitting these days? Reading? Please share, I’d love to know.

Wishing you a wonderful day!

*Joining Ginny today

food for thought friday

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“Genius is play, and man’s capacity for achieving genius is infinite, and many may achieve genius only through play.”
– William Saroyan (source: goodreads)

Well, I don’t know about achieving genius, but I did learn an awful lot when a late afternoon ray of sunshine and a glittery card invited me to play. By accepting that invitation, I learned that sometimes a whole new dimension of beauty reveals itself when we soften the lines of our focus, when we relax our “vision” and have a little fun. Seeing the world through a softer lens allows the mess in the background to virtually disappear as it blends and harmonizes with the whole, larger picture. At the same time, this kind of “seeing” draws our attention to the brighter, lighter things that might otherwise go unnoticed or unappreciated. When we do this, the world feels like a truly magical place to be alive. Now, I think that’s is a very good way of seeing the world, don’t you? I know it’s one I intend to practice more often in the future.

A few weeks ago, when I shared a bit about feeling off-centre and overwhelmed by some of life’s little curveballs thrown my way, a very kind and sweet reader reminded me to “go gently and be soft”. Wise words, indeed. Thank you, elfyn.

Wishing you a lovely weekend. Go gently. Be soft. Play. Watch life’s magic unfold all around you.

shifting into colour

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By the time I finished that pair of fingerless mittens shown in my last post, I realized I had been doing an awful lot of grey knitting. While I really do love grey, I think I’ve been getting my fill of it outside. Time for a bit of colour for the last few weeks (or months) of winter. And what better way of getting a bit of colour therapy than by knitting with it!

Last summer, I purchased this lovely and so very soft, lace-weight Malabrigo Silkpaca (in Arco Iris). Though I had no idea what I would knit with it, I knew it had to come home with me (this is a buying habit I’m really trying to break, by the way). And to be honest, finding the right pattern did prove to be a tricky affair but after MUCH searching on Ravelry and an absurd amount of casting on and ripping out and casting on again, I finally settled on a pattern I saw in an advertisement for Loop in Selvedge. Hmm, I guess I’m not so immune to advertising after all…

So, allow me to introduce Josephine by Paulina Popiolek, a pretty semi-circular shawl. As it stands, I’m almost halfway through the bottom border and, thus far, the lacework and short row shaping have proven to be a nice tonic to the otherwise complete boredom of knitting what is essentially a scarf (my LEAST favourite kind of knitting – maybe next to ties which is a whole other tale).

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What about you? Do find yourself craving a little more colour these days, too? Do the seasons affect your colour choices in your craft or wardrobe? How do you bring a little more colour into your days (or less as the case may be)?  I remember last year around this time I had the deepest craving for green…

Wishing you a lovely day!

food for thought friday

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“It’s the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary.”
― Paulo Coelho

Waking up this morning to freshly fallen snow, watching my excited boys get ready to spend the day at the ski hill, drinking a cup of delicious rose-coloured tea, admiring a leaf the same beautiful colour, savouring the hidden brightness of a grapefruit, feeling the satisfaction of finishing a special project, loving the “snow -light” that fills my home  – all the while thinking how miraculous that such simple things make life so very good!

Wishing you a wonderful weekend full of life’s simple miracles. What extraordinary “little” things are filling your moments these days?

first snowshoe – part one: musings on the winter landscape

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This past weekend, while the rest of my herd headed to the slopes, I took to the hills and backwood trails, a first snowshoe of the year. Wandering about, I marvelled at how the absence of blue skies completely alters the mood of a winter’s day. Like most people, I prefer a bright, sunny day but these grey days, well, they have a sombre beauty all their own.

[W]hat a severe yet master artist old Winter is…. No longer the canvas and the pigments, but the marble and the chisel. ~John Burroughs

I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape — the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.       ~Andrew Wyeth (more images here)

While I’m not sure I would ever say that I prefer winter as Wyeth does, I do appreciate his idea that “the whole story doesn’t show”. There is something wonderfully mysterious about winter, knowing that deep down in the belly of the soil, life is waiting to come again. Nature isn’t dead, just resting.

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So, despite the sombre landscape, it was a good walk. I rejoined my family feeling brighter and refreshed. Nature is a mighty powerful medicine and I look forward to getting my next dose -soon!

Now, before I close, I want to say thank you for all the incredibly kind and encouraging comments (and emails, texts and phone calls) shared in response to my last post. There’s a Japanese proverb that says one kind word can warm three winter months. Given all the kind words I’ve received, I’d say I’ll be warm for many winters to come. Thank you, your words bring more joy and comfort to me than I can express.

Wishing you a bright and warm winter’s day!

slowing down

In the days leading up to this post I’ve been struggling a bit to find the right words to describe where I’m at lately, words that are wise and kind and perhaps even helpful. Since I’m still waiting for these words to come, I’ll say this instead: these days, some parts of my life have been tough (which is why I haven’t been posting much and why I’ve pretty much abandoned Instagram), while other parts, miraculously joyful.

Some of us here in this household, including me, are feeling quite ill and generally feeling a little down and out. At times like these I find it most helpful to slow down and drop everything that doesn’t feel truly necessary. Slowing down helps me to pay attention and “take joy” (a phrase I’m borrowing from my friend Valerie) in the many, many little simple things that are good all around me. I’m not sure quite why, but taking time to appreciate all these good things helps me refill my otherwise empty tank.

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This yarn, a light fingering weight, locally “grown” Shetland wool is one of those simple and really good things. Right now, I’m using this yarn for a very special project I’m knitting and each and every stitch I make makes me feel a little lighter, a little happier.

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I call it my smiley yarn, my silver lining yarn. It feels alive. I love it. I hope whoever this project is given to will love it just as much and perhaps even remind them to slow down a little themselves, and take time to smell the flowers.

Slowing down helps me find rest, something I clearly need in both body and soul. Needless to say, I’m thankful that knitting is restful, too.

Slowing down gives me time when I can appreciate how necessary it is to have good friends who I can reach out to, friends who listen with compassion and understanding and who are willing to share the wisdom they’ve gained from their own experiences.

Slowing down gives me time to reflect how very lucky I am in this area of my life.

Slowing down gives me a little more time to savour the thoughtful and meditative gift of tea – and their tea tags! Slowing down gives me time to dig deeper inside and reconnect to those parts of me that sometimes take the back seat.

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What about you? Do you practice slowing down when life throws you a series of curve balls? What does slowing down give you?

Wishing you a most lovely, slow week.

p.s. I’d also be thrilled to know what your smiley yarn is, if you’d like to share, of course!

how to embrace cabin fever

 

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The view out my window, cold and crisp and clear.

Did I say cold? Bone chilling cold. Not much out of doors exploring for us winter wimps. Instead, I’ve been trying to embrace the onset of cabin fever with my favourite recipe for winter comfort.

I thought I’d share this recipe with you today (feel free to adjust the measures as you see fit):

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1. Pile on the hand knits.

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2. Start a new project.

DSC_03493. Put on your favourite woollen socks (hint: ones made by friends are ALWAYS warmer, I think its the love) and wear your favourite comfy clothes. At the young age of thirty-seven I’ve only just discovered the pure bliss of sweatpants, however, whatever clothing makes you feel cosy and warm – wear it!

DSC_03554. Find a favourite book to revisit and ask a friend to join you in reading it. A nice, long book will easily draw your attention away from how long days can feel when you’re tucked inside. A good friendly chat about your book via email makes the experience all the more pleasurable and the day feel less lonely. Of course, if your friend is a literary genius, you’re also bound to learn something new.

5. Find your favourite snuggle bug (borrow one if necessary) and read their favourite book together (thank you Claire!). Added bonus: extra body heat!

6. Listen to something epic, preferably something that broadens your imaginative horizons beyond the four walls of home. I’ve been listening to Beethoven, this symphony in particular. Maybe you have your own preferences (feel free to share them please!).

7. Drink lots of warm beverages. I drink tea – this one is my new favourite lately.

8. Try to get outside, even for just a few minutes. The cold air outside will make the warm air inside feel even warmer.

9. Remember these words :

“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.”  – Edith Sitwell

Enjoy steps 1- 9 whenever possible!

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What about you? Do you have a recipe for winter comfort? If you do, will you please share it with me, I’d love to know. Wishing you a warm and cosy winter’s day!