I’m mostly happy to report that I finished my project for the Loopy Ewe 2012 First Quarter Challenge and the Aria Delicato scarf is blocked.  I have to admit that I’m not completely happy with the blocking and may soak it again (or steam it) over the weekend to see if I can improve on the ends a bit.  The scarf itself is quite lovely and it was exciting to hold the finished project.  That said, I’m a bit disappointed that the project is over … the pattern was well-written and the yarn was gorgeous and I’m a little bit sad that I don’t have the ability to pick it up and work a few repeats before bed.  For the first time, I understand.  When the yarn and pattern are such a perfect match, it can be hard to let go – no matter how lovely the finished product may be.

     

I get the feeling that it’s time to shift my focus away from the creative for a while and work on something practical.  I’m trying to free myself from some of the stuff I’ve accumulated in the last 5 years (as well as stuff I moved here but haven’t used), and I’m once again motivated to delve into projects that require tough decisions.  I want to prepare for the reality that I may have to down-size to a smaller apartment – it’s time to find good homes for things I no longer need.  So far I’ve attacked a closet and a bookcase and it feels great to have some breathing room.  Thinking about putting a few things on eBay, too – I would love to earn enough from things I no longer need to fund some new knitting needles.

Next week is spring break.  With any luck I’ll find a comfortable balance between relaxing, crafting, and cleaning.  Can’t wait to see how that goes.

Advertisements

So I finally finished knitting and shipping 2011 gifts.  Egads, I’m bad at this.  I’m pretty good at making plans – I mostly suck at the execution of said plans.  The hand-made projects turned out OK from my perspective; I just hope the recipients are as happy with the results.

With the stress of holiday knitting behind me, I’m lining up fresh new projects for 2012.  Part of my goal for the year is to keep a small portable project on the needles so I can have something to carry with me as I run errands.  It’s funny how knitting in public – at restaurants, doctor’s offices, conferences, coffee shops, salons – opens the door for people I’ve never met to engage me in positive and lively conversation.  For whatever reason, people seem genuinely interested in what I’m doing and want share their own experiences with knitting or knitters.  Thus I’m encouraged to continue to carry around a project and knit when the mood/situation seems appropriate (i.e. anytime I’m not driving and have to wait). 

In addition to a few small projects I save for travel, my first significant project of the year is off to a good start.  After a year of wanting to take part in virtual knit-a-longs (but unable to keep up with even the group projects in my knitting class), I joined the Loopy Ewe First Quarter 2012 Challenge: knit something with a yarn that contains silk.  With the help of the intended recipient, I picked up some scrumptious Sea Silk (made of plant fibers: 70% silk, 30% seacell) and chose a lovely KnitSpot pattern.  Have to admit that I’m loving every minute I spend knitting this gorgeous design with this soft and luminous yarn. Yes, I know that there are so many lovely yarns to try, but I think I’m going to have to splurge and make another project out of this – it is definitely luxurious.

Already looking forward to taking some time off at Spring Break (a mere 5 weeks away), as I keep piling up projects to start (and finish).  Finally picked up the odds and ends needed to complete a few more sewing projects – I really should address that pile so I can reclaim my dining room table.  And I have a handful of half-finished knits that need a push to get off the needles — so I can start something new, of course.  Taking a day trip to an exotic location (Fredericksburg?  Comfort? San Antonio?) is tempting, but with gas prices steadily on the rise and my savings account needing to be … established … I am leaning towards staying home and trying to be productive here.  Perhaps I’ll check out some DVDs and spend a week time traveling with the Doctor.

I’ll leave you with a photo of Kira, who is dutifully checking out my stitch markers.  She seems to approve of my choice (and at least her beak can’t hurt the crocheted sheep).

Mom always warned me that time would go by faster as I grew up, and boy she wasn’t kidding.  I’ve been in my “new” job for over 5 years now and in Texas for 32 years — yet I can’t possibly be this old.

2011 was an OK year.  My favorite thing is that, 2 years after becoming gluten-free, I remain free of sinus infections and occasionally get a good night’s sleep.  I’m thankful that a decade of illness and misery is behind me and I still go to acupuncture regularly because I’m scared to death that I’ll have another relapse.

My 2012 will begin without a regular knitting class.  After taking bi-weekly classes for nearly a year and a half, I finally decided that I’m ready to strike out on my own.  I am grateful to my knitting teacher who taught me this new skill, introduced a wide variety of knitting techniques, passed along years of wisdom and tips, and gave me the confidence to tackle any project I want to make.  The group of women who came together to form the initial class last fall — most of whom continued along with additional classes throughout the year — are amazing people.  The social aspect was just as dynamic as the knitting instruction and I will miss meeting with them regularly.  On the bright side, there’s a local knitting group that meets once a week after work so I will still have the opportunity to meet with other knitters (and crocheters).

Resolutions are not my thing, so I don’t have any big plans for the upcoming year other than to save as much money as I can, prepare to downsize to a smaller apartment (as rents are going up and I hate living here), pursue creative activities to keep my mind and hands busy, and do my best to stay out of trouble.

For all practical purposes, 2011 was the year without a Christmas.  I didn’t put up any decorations, I didn’t send cards, I didn’t listen to Christmas music, and I didn’t watch my favorite holiday movies.  I wasn’t anti-Christmas – it’s more that I lacked interest.  In spite of the absence of holiday enthusiasm I spent the last couple of months working on Christmas knitting. (Since I haven’t mailed out all the packages yet I feel compelled to post only about the gifts that have been received so I don’t spoil any surprises.)

My primary concern was to find suitable gifts for the nice and nephews because I know that kids aren’t fond of receiving IOUs under the tree.  They love technology (as do I) but I can’t compete on the level of giving Nintendo 3DS and iPod Touch and Nikon cameras, so I try to focus on finding unique and/or handmade gifts. I decided to make box bags with fabric I purchased from Spoonflower (for more geeky fabrics, check out Studio Fibonacci‘s offerings) and added a hand-knit item to each bag.  I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised by the positive response I received from my niece, nephews, and sister-in-law regarding the handmade gifts.  They all loved their box bags – and nephew #1 immediately filled his with all the technology gear he received from Santa.

For the boys, I made storm trooper hats – with a band of color that coordinated with their bags to help identify the owner of each hat.  After a frustrating few weeks of employing the Goldilocks Method of knitting  (i.e. first hat was too tight, second hat was ginormous), I finally hit the right tension for the stranded motif and successfully made two hats that fit.   I have to admit that when they opened their gifts and tried on the hats, I exclaimed “Yes!  They fit!” — an outburst that must have delighted nephew #2 as he kept reciting my quote to me the rest of the day (although I was disappointed that he didn’t re-enact the accompanying fist-pump).  What surprised me most is that my brother offered to take the hat that was too big for the kids – and it fit him perfectly.

For my niece, who asked me back in October to make her something for Christmas, I made a black bag with bright polka dots and included a Just Enough Ruffles scarf in purple with flecks of bright colors and a sweet crocheted lamb that I made from a Planet June pattern.  She wore the scarf for the next few days so I’m assuming she liked it.  My sis-in-law kept commenting on how much she liked that scarf, so I think I’ll make her one for her upcoming birthday.

Finally, I knew that nephew #1 wanted a scarf of his own and my original plan was to wrap one up with the hat.  Alas, the hats took so long (since I had to make 4 of them) that I ended up wrapping everything else and working on the scarf before and during Christmas.  I managed to finish it on the evening of the 25th and gave it to him the next day.  He was delighted to receive a scarf of his very own with plenty of orange – his favorite color – and wore it around the house for the next two days.

Christmas 2011 isn’t quite complete as I have a few finishing touches to put on some projects that need to be mailed out.  I’ve alerted my friends that Epiphany gifts are all the rage this year – and do hope to get them boxed and mailed this week.  I’m looking forward to sending out my first round of hand-knit items and hope that they will be appreciated — I love the process of choosing materials and patterns to suit an individual.

Guess I’m off to gather boxes, labels, and postage.  Perhaps I can get most everything in the mail by Friday morning <fingers crossed>.  Then I can start planning for Christmas 2012!

Mmmmm!

This morning I put Kira’s food and water bowls on the kitchen counter so she could eat her breakfast while I was fixing my lunch. We don’t get to spend a lot of time hanging out in the mornings – if I walk away even for a moment she panics and tries to fly to me – so I’ve learned to keep her close to me as I’m getting ready.

At some point I turned my back for a moment … and find her perched on my bowl of kale and wild rice, munching away and making happy bird noises.

Frankly, I’m just glad she left some for me.

 

Indulging in breakfast while waiting for the Apple Store to open

My poor 3 year-old BlackBerry Bold 9000 – it was my first smartphone and it served me well.  But all good things must come to an end … especially when its battery no longer holds a charge.

Knowing that I was due for a new device, I took a few months to research Android vs. iOS and finally decided to switch over to an iPhone 4S — but planned to wait until late November to allow the early adopters time to get in and get out of the way.  Unfortunately, my BlackBerry forced me to make other plans – its death rattle became too much to ignore and I really needed a phone that won’t brick itself at 80% battery life.  I checked with my local AT&T store and discovered they weren’t expecting any new iPhone shipments until mid-December.  I had a mild panic attack wondering how on earth I could live without communication for another month.  Then, after talking with my friend, Becca (who was able to walk into her Apple store and purchase a 4S), I decided to try purchasing directly from the Apple store.

With no expectations of anything but disappointment, I figured I’d call an Apple store and find out if it was possible to get a phone before Christmas.   I went to Apple.com to find a phone number and found out that they were taking online reservations for the 4S.  They accept reservations after 9pm for pickup the next day — and much to my amazement they released some stock in the exact model I wanted.  I clicked the “reserve” button and received an e-mail confirmation that assured me I’d have a phone waiting for me on Saturday.  The process seemed far too simple, but OK.

A crowd gathers in front of the Apple store

Got up early on Saturday, took a long drive in beautiful weather with good music, and arrived at my destination early enough to indulge in a decadent breakfast of gluten-free scones and a rooibos chai steamer. Once I was stuffed full of scones and tea, I sat outside in the sunshine for a bit of knitting.  No idea why I was surprised to see people lining up in front of the store waiting for it to open … but I was.  Were they all waiting for phones?  About 40 people rushed in when the doors opened.  Once the crowd was inside, I wandered in and was greeted by a Blue Shirt – I told her I had an iPhone reservation and she ushered me to some ropes where I started a line (I was surprised there weren’t 39 people ahead of me).  Another Blue Shirt came to assist me; he pulled up my reservation and my carrier contract, had my device delivered to our table (by another Blue Shirt), activated and set up my phone, and handed me over to yet another Blue Shirt (with an impressive toolkit of organized cables) who transferred my contacts from my BlackBerry to my new iPhone.

Wow.  I have to say that I’m impressed.  Yes, I’ve heard about the customer service, but I haven’t purchased anything from an Apple store before so I was still pretty amazed by the seamless purchase and set-up process.  Mostly I’m relieved to have a reliable working phone again – along with some fun technology to keep me entertained.

Of course, my plans for the day went out the window as I spent the entire afternoon setting up the phone and trying to figure out what it can do.  I’ll pay for my dalliance tomorrow when I have to squeeze all my weekend chores into a single day — but I reckon I’ll survive.  In the meantime, I’m going to stay up a bit later to rip some new CDs into iTunes and sync my music to my (old) iPod and (new) iPhone.  Perhaps I can use the new music as an incentive to get my work done tomorrow.  Especially if the 4S will work with my speaker docks!

One of my favorite fall rituals involves retrieving grandma’s blanket from storage.  It usually makes its first appearance when overnight temperatures reach down into the 40s – an event which finally happened this week.   During the day it lays folded at the foot of the bed.  At night, its weight keeps me warm and comfortable.

Pieced from scraps of leftover fabric, it consists of individual squares stuffed with laddered nylons, folded with all four corners together at the center, hand-stitched closed and then tied through all layers with a length of embroidery thread.  The individual squares were hand-sewn together into a blanket that is roughly the size of a twin bed.  All told, it must weigh at least five pounds – nylons are substantially heavier than polyester batting – and I am careful about how I handle it so as not to stress its aging fabric and seams.

Grandma was an immigrant from Denmark and she married a full-blooded Bohemian.  They had two children during the Great Depression and raised their family together until grandpa died from (what we now know was) acute myelogenous leukemia when my mom was 15.  I don’t believe grandma ever held a job outside the home; she may have taken in sewing or odd jobs when she was able, but I think she lived on social security with the help of her kids and the support of her siblings and their families.  She lived in a small house in a neighborhood of small houses and her needs were few.

The one thing I know for sure about my grandma is that she liked to keep her hands busy – she embroidered pillow cases and dresser scarves, tatted edges on anything that wasn’t nailed down, and had a particular fondness for crochet.  She seemed to prefer working with cotton thread and tiny steel hooks; I inherited some of her tools and one of these days I will frame what must have been her favorite – a tiny steel hook with a dull patina and an unimaginable curve in the handle.  I can only imagine how long it took to coax the steel to conform to the contours of her hand and match the angle at which she preferred to work.

Grandma died when I was seven, on my mom’s 38th birthday.  I still remember the floorplan of her house, eating mixed-up (scrambled) eggs in the kitchen, hanging out with my great-uncles on the front porch, and the tulips and grape hyacinths growing in her front yard.  Now that I’m older, I would like to think we would have enjoyed each other’s company as adults.  I can imagine sitting down with her on a Saturday morning with a cup of tea and a crochet (or knitting or embroidery) project in hand.  I’d love to know if her creations were mainly from Workbasket magazine or if she designed her own patterns from years of experience.   Did she choose to work with cotton thread because it was inexpensive, because she loved the intricacy of detail work, or because she preferred it to the scratchy acrylic yarns of the time?  Was she disappointed that her daughter wasn’t interested in creative pursuits, and would she be surprised that the need to create is part of my nature?

During my teen years I wanted to recreate grandma’s blanket with my leftover fabric and used pantyhose – and for years I saved my worn-out hosiery for this project so I wouldn’t be at a loss when her original wore out.   But I finally came to the realization that I don’t want another one – I want my grandma’s blanket.   After months of resting in a closet, putting it back into active use triggers a little wave of memories.  Grandma has been gone a long time, yet my memories of her linger in the physical object that she created.  I can only hope to be so lucky.