enough – at odds

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Last week I wrote a bit about the things I really like about working mostly from my yarn stash, the things that have made my knitting pursuits easier and how working form my stash has really confirmed my natural tendencies towards fuzzy, more “rustic” natural yarns.

So now that I’ve got my yarn preferences figured out and more than enough of that kind of yarn at hand, you might think that everything would fall into place in terms of lining up my projects and loving everything I make. I’m happy to report that for the most part, it does, except when I come across a pattern I really like that requires a round, “smooth” yarn. This very thing happened most recently when I saw that Liesl put a call out for test knitters for the cutest little hat.

When I first saw Liesl’s Clara May Hat, I instantly fell for the textured stitch patterns she had chosen that give the hat a laid back, folksy feel, in other words, the kind of design qualities I’m drawn to. Naturally, I rushed to sign myself up right away.

Having learned the hard way years ago of the importance of using a round, smooth and crisp yarn for textured patterns, I knew I would have to look beyond my stash for the right yarn to knit the Clara May Hat. Happy for an excuse to visit a yarn shop, I selected a yarn I thought would yield good stitch definition. You can imagine my frustration when my swatch quickly revealed how wrong my choice in yarn was. My love for soft, natural and fuzzy yarn strikes again and made a fuzzy, sloppy mess of the textured stitches. Ugh.

the "bad" yarn I'm referring to is the brown sample on top - this was the only photo I took before ripping it apart

the “bad” yarn I’m referring to is the brown sample on top – this was the only photo I took before ripping it apart, the dark grey sample underneath shows Cascade 220 – not bad but not very exciting either

Wanting to produce a good finished test for Liesl while also respecting my financial limitations, I dug deep into the corners of my stash. I came up with one skein of Manos del Uruguay Silk Blend, already wound (had I used any of it? I couldn’t remember) and knew it would be good match for Clara May. And it was good, really good actually, until I got several inches in and that sinking feeling of maybe not having enough yarn to finish kicked in. Ugh (again).

Manos Silk Blend

Manos Silk Blend

Not wanting to play yarn chicken on a deadline, I found another yarn that swatched up “good enough” and, knowing I had lots of that, I started again and finally finished it, satisfied I had made the hat but still slightly disappointed because I knew it could have been better.

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Wabi-Sabi Organic Shetland, “good enough”

And yet, not end this tale on a sour note, the experience has given me a warm new hat made with a yarn I really do love (its so Shetland-y soft!), a new appreciation for test knitters and blog writing material to boot. All in all, not too shabby at the end of the day.

Thankfully, some patterns with textured stitches, like Bonnie’s (Blue Peninsula) On the Other Hand fingerless mittens, are more flexible. Bonnie’s sample for this pattern uses a lovely hand-dyed fingering weight that, being round and smooth, shows off the slightly textured lace stitches beautifully. While the yarn I used for the pair I knit didn’t have quite the same effect, its fuzzy, rustic characteristics lent a gentle halo that, in my mind at least, made up for the lack of crisp stitch definition.

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I couldn’t be happier with these new mitts – now, if only it would warm up enough for me to wear them outside!

All of this to say (in a very long winded way), even the challenges of working almost exclusively from my yarn stash so far this year have provided me with the great benefit of better yarn wisdom, of learning how to think more critically about matching patterns with yarn and knowing that, for now, my love for highly textured knitting projects will just have to wait.

What about you, do the patterns you like and the yarn you love ever butt heads? I’m curious, how do you resolve that conflict?

Wishing you a lovely day and to those of you who observe and celebrate, a blessed Holy Week and very happy Easter!

what is enough?

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Since I writing this post, I’ve been frequently revisiting my chosen word for 2015 “enough”, particularly in relation to my rather large yarn stash. To be honest, I feel embarrassed to have acquired so much yarn over the years and yet, still (to this day) want more.

Thankfully, I am far from alone in my desire to work through and, thus, reduce my stash. I’m definitely sure I’m not alone in loving Felicia’s series of posts on her blog The Craft Sessions, where she’s been writing about the challenges of using her own stash and respecting her budget in her goals to create a handmade wardrobe for herself. In reading these posts, not only do I find myself nodding along in agreement with her words as well as many of those shared in the comments section, but I’m also gaining new insight into how I think about my own process and goal of using up at least 50% of my stash. 

Perhaps my greatest insight (and answer to the question in today’s title) is summed up in this wonderful quote shared in Felicia’s post here:

“Enough is as good as a feast.”
– Mary Poppins

How very true, I mean there’s only so much we can eat (or knit) after all. Everything beyond that goes uneaten (unused), perhaps indefinitely and that likelihood to go “uneaten” grows exponentially whenever more yarn is added to the table, so to speak. This insight has been a great motivator to stay committed to my goal as it aligns with my deeper, core values and my wish to live those more authentically too.

So, today I thought I’d like to say how after two months of living my intentions of knitting (98%) from my “stash only”, I have discovered a few really wonderful benefits – one of which being the absolute luxury of not having to leave the house to buy yarn (have I mentioned what a homebody/hermit I am? – this benefit ranks really high on my list) and spend money in the process. Having my stash to draw from is a bit like having a nice savings account (sadly one that doesn’t collect interest, that would be too good!) right at my finger tips.

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In working with my stash, I’ve also gained a deeper insight into my yarn preferences as well. While I’ve always known how much I love natural, fuzzy and somewhat rustic yarn, it hasn’t been until I’ve had to really go through and characterize my yarn in terms of what kind of pattern would suit it, have I truly understood the depths of that love. As it turns out, I really DO love minimally processed, fuzzy yarn.

Of course, that insight in itself has presented its own set of challenges, too, but I think I shall save that discussion for next week along with a few exciting projects that demonstrate those challenges quite well (if I do say so myself).

How about you? Are you choosing to work though your stash rather than add to it this year? How is it going? What are you learning about this process and about yourself? What have been the benefits for you?

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Wishing you a wonderful week! I’ll be away for the next several days so please forgive me if I’m a little late in responding to your comments and trust that I read and love each and every one (I am especially grateful for all the truly lovely comments shared in my last post and those shared over at Vibeke’s – thank you, I am deeply touched!)

giveaway

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Today I am honoured to take part in my friend Vibeke’s month of giving* in celebration of her 40th birthday (it’s tomorrow!). By following the link to a butterfly in my hair, you can read my interview ** with Vibeke and put your name in a draw to win this pair of fingerless mittens I made earlier this year just for this occasion. I can’t tell you how much I love these mittens, I hope you will too.

Wishing you a marvellous Monday!

*If you aren’t already aware of this month-long series of interviews and giveaways, I encourage you to get yourself a cup of tea and settle down to read through all of these wonderful posts. Be  prepared to be inspired by this gathering of incredibly talented women.

** I am feeling strangely nervous about this interview, somehow sharing your thoughts and memories on someone else’s blog is quite a different experience than sharing them on your own. Go figure!

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***As it happens, today is both my parents’ birthdays (neat, huh?). Happy birthday Mom and Dad!

simple stripes for spring

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What do you do with two skeins of beautifully simple rustic yarn*? Make a pair of simple striped mittens for spring! Perfect for those mild-yet-not-mild-enough-for-bare-hand(or fingers)-days.

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What are you making for these early spring days?

Wishing you a lovely day!

*this yarn was purchased during a visit to Upper Canada Village last summer where it was made onsite.

food for thought friday

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“No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.”

- Hal Borland

Signs of spring have been spotted around my neck of the woods this week. How about you? Do you see signs of spring skipping your way? What does spring look like (or sounds like or smell like or feel like) to you?

I love to hear the sound of sneakers slide about on the street – because you know, even though there’s still snow in the yard, as soon as my kids see pavement they are begging to ditch those heavy boots. Who can blame them? I’m ready for bare feet and sandals!

However, for now, sandals are months away and I am more than content with a few less layers, the happy sounds of nature bringing new life to my world and the feeling of the sun warming my cheeks. Life is wonderful.

Wishing you a lovely weekend!

in-between appointments

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A little while ago, I found myself in a position of having some extra time between my “scheduled” knitting projects.* It turned out that the Josephine shawl I was knitting didn’t take as long to finish as I had anticipated and my next project wasn’t due to start until early March.

So, with great excitement I picked up my Lila, something I had started for myself last fall but kept putting it aside so I could work on Christmas and birthday gifts and crossed my fingers that I could get it done before the end of February and I did! (it must have been those crossed fingers, hahaha)

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I couldn’t be happier with the results. Ravelry project notes here.

Wishing you a lovely day!

* Do any of you schedule your knitting/craft/art? Please share, I’d love to know.

food for thought friday

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Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.        – Colossians 3:14

Sometimes it’s easy to think of knitting as just a frivolous hobby. However, I would argue that knitting can be much more profound than a casual activity taken up to pass the time.

I believe knitting is a physical manifestation of the love we have for others (as well as for ourselves). I believe this act of looping a length of string over and over upon itself has a touch of the divine spirit. I believe when we knit in a hopeful, loving and mindful way, we create a piece of fabric that connects our inward loving intentions towards someone to an outward practical purpose of keeping them clothed and warm. In this way, our knitting becomes a very real and tangible manifestation of our love for those we knit for.

However, I also believe that we, who commit this act of knitting, are also clothed in love wether we are the ones wearing the finished knitted object or not. I believe the act of knitting has the power to clothe us in a more spiritual cloth that may not be seen by the eye but certainly can be felt by the heart. I believe that cloth is called love and it is a cloth made by sharing our love with others, by being mindful of that love we have for them and being mindful of that love that we, too, are given. 

No, I wouldn’t call this act of knitting a frivolous hobby at all. Like all things done in a spirit of mindful loving-kindness, knitting has the power to bind us together in complete and perfect harmony as this practice allows us to work peacefully together with something far greater than ourselves – each other, and, for those of us who live in faith, also with God. 

Wishing you a wonderful weekend, bound together with love (and therefore much knitting)!

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.