The Expressive Creatrix (and Hobbyist)

{June 29, 2011}   Here We Go!

My Swirl has officially been launched!  I casted on all 537 stitches Tuesday night, and I’m now on row 3 of welt 1.  Casting on was a time-consuming project.  I’ve never counted so much in my life!  The pattern says to place stitch markers after each of 8 sections of 67 stitches.  I counted and counted and counted each section, more times than was probably necessary, but I really didn’t want to screw it up.  I used the long-tail cast on using two balls of yarn so that I didn’t have to try to estimate the tail length.  It worked great!  On my final count, I discovered that one section had an extra stitch.  (See? You can never count too much!)  Ruh, roh!  I just marked it with a locking stitch marker and purled it together with one of the stitches next to it when I came to it on my first row.  Voila!  Easy fix!

Knitting and purling all those stitches is also very time-consuming – 537 is a LOT of stitches!  The first row went particularly slow as my cast on was a bit tight, so working the stitches was kind of a strain.  Now that I’m on row 3, though, the going is much easier. The first three rounds are worked flat, and starting with row 4 I’ll join in the round and keep knitting and knitting and knitting. I have a feeling much of this will be mind-numbingly boring, but I’ll keep my eye on the prize!  My Swirl is going to be gorgeous!  For now, I’m looking forward to welt 2 or 3 when I already get to start decreasing!

Pictures coming soon!


{June 27, 2011}   Swirl Swatch Complete!

Last week I swatched for my Strata Sphere Swirl.  I started out with the recommended size US 7 needles, but after a few inches, a measurement indicated I needed to try going up a size.  So, a quick frog job, and I re-started with US 8s.  I made a pretty good-sized swatch, about 10″ wide by 9″ high. 

One thing to note – prior to wetting the swatch, my gauge was about 18½-19   stitches per 4″.  The pattern calls for a gauge of 17 stitches/4″.  Wetting and drying the swatch did cause a bit of bloom as my gauge measurement immediately post-blocking was 16-17 stitches/4″, depending where on the swatch I measured.  The 16 stitches/4″ was actually more common.  Uh, oh, being off by 1 stitch like that on a garment (especially one the size of a swirl) has the potential to be catastrophic.  I attributed that to the thick/thin nature of the Noro yarn.  I let the swatch sit over the weekend and thought about it.  Well, apparantly the yarn thought about it too!  Sometimes, with some time to just be, a yarn decides to cooperate.  When I measured the swatch again last night, I was pretty much spot on stitch gauge across the whole swatch.  It’s like the resting and possibly the absorption of some humidity from the air caused the stitches to expand a bit more and settle.  Something learned.

Casting on this evening!

{June 21, 2011}   So it begins

Swirl Quest 2011 officially began yesterday with the swatch!  Yep, true to my word, I started swatching last evening.  I started with the recommended US size 7 needles.  A few inches into it, I was getting a gauge of 18.5-19 stitches/4″, and the pattern gauge is 17 stitches/4″.  Yes, the yarn I’m using contains mohair and wool (in addition to the primary content of silk), so I expect it’ll bloom a bit with washing and drying, so perhaps it would’ve blocked out at the correct gauge, but . . . well, I guess I decided I’d try US 8s instead since I tend to knit on the tight size and often have to go up in needle size, so I frogged and am trying it again with the 8s.  We’ll see.

I must say I LOVE the Noro Silk Garden.  I’ve read that Noro is one of those “love it or hate it” yarns.  So far, I am firmly in the “love” group.   At first the slight scratchiness of the yarn put me off a bit, and the fuzzyness was a concern. I was worried that I would struggle with knitting with it like I did with the Crystal Palace Mini Mochi (which I attempted to use for my Harry Shawl but quickly gave up).  However, after a couple of rows, neither the feel nor the fuzzyness is a problem.  I’m told that the yarn will wash to a great softness, and I find that the fuzzyness doesn’t necessarily make the yarn hard to knit with.  In fact, it is very forgiving.  If you want crisp stitch definition, then obviously this wouldn’t be the yarn to use, but on a project like this and for a newbie knitter like myself, the yarn is wonderful at making “not so perfect” stitches not noticeable!  Yea!  I find the yarn is quick to knit with, and it seems to have a nice bounce with a good amount of give to it.  It also looks gorgeous knit up.  I can see why Noro has its legions of fans!

I am just so excited about this project. I’ve been kind of apprehensive about it, but it’s definitely do-able now. I know that.  The more I look through the pattern and instructions, the clearer my understanding.  Now that I’ve worked with the yarn, I know that the yarn isn’t going to give me difficulties.  And, at first I was a bit unsure as to exactly how to swatch (the pattern wasn’t clicking, and I have to do the swatch flat when the project is actually knit in the round), but upon some consideration, I figured it out.  It was a total “aha’ moment!  I love those.  This project is definitely going to be something I can do and something I will love doing!

So, that’s where I’m at.  I’ll be back to post the results of the swatching.

{June 17, 2011}   Call Me Crazy . . .

. . . but I’m going on my own personal “Sweater Quest,” and I’m bringing you with me!

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Sweater Quest, it’s a book by Adrienne Martini chronicling her year-long adventure of knitting an “Alice Starmore.”   “Alice Starmore” the thing is a sweater using the Fair Isle technique of knitting (there are many different designs).  Alice Starmore  the person is the knitting designer who (it sounds like to me)  took Fair Isle and really put it on the map.  Apparently, she is the master.  

No, I most certainly am not taking on a Starmore!  The most intricate I get with colorwork at this point in my newbie knitting career is making stripes (and I try to avoid doing that as I hate weaving in all those yarn ends when I’m done!), and I’ve never even made a sweater let alone one involving somewhat complex colorwork.  No, a Starmore is something I would do much later in my knitting career if at all.  Truthfully, the Starmore stuff I’ve seen, while I can appreciate its beauty and gloriousness, just doesn’t float my boat.  If I’m going to invest a lot of money, time, effort into something, I expect to freakin’ love the result and to wear and treasure it for years!  (And possibly pawn off on . . . err, I mean lovingly gift to my eldest daughter when I pass.  She may not truly appreciate it as something she’ll wear and use, but I hope she respects and treasures it as a monument to her mother’s knitting fortitude and dedication.)

What I am lusting after is, a Swirl!  A Swirl is the creation of knitting designer and self-published author Sandra McIver.  Her book, Knit, Swirl!   This book came to my attention when the patterns were posted to Ravelry last week.  (Well, the patterns themselves aren’t posted, but pictures of the projects are with information on how to obtain the patterns.)  Every Swirl I saw was beautiful and had that kind of boho hippie vibe that I love!  I’m talking every kind of boho hippie – from flowing and elegant to fun and funky.  I just love the flowing, yet fitted style.  Something about them screams, “This is YOU!” to me!  I had to have one!

So, the book was purchased immediately from Amazon, and I received it yesterday.  The price was the not-so-low price of $34.95, but really for a new release hard cover book, that’s in the ballpark.  Only the truly patient can wait for a book to come out in softcover and for it to be 2 or 3 years old before they buy it.  I really wanted this book, so $34.95 was reasonable.  In fact, upon looking at the book, it’s very reasonable.  The book is clearly written with many, many color photographs.  The author gives a detailed explanation of what a Swirl is and the characteristics of the four different types.  There are schematic charts (which, honestly, make my head hurt at this point) and what appears to be solid instruction.  There are hints and tips on everything from choosing your size, subbing yarn, gauge and swatching, and knitting techniques from casting on to finishing.   Also, “included” in the price of the book is the author’s website (linked above) with errata and tutorials.  If you’re a member of Ravelry and are in the Knit, Swirl group, you’ll have the benefit of Ms. McIver’s presence there.  She’s been popping in to comment, make suggestions, answer questions and in general just be there.  I’m hoping all of us are providing her with some feedback she can use!  She seems to be a very gracious woman. (I won’t go into more detail on the book.  If you’re interested in learning and seeing more, check out Ms. McIver’s website (there are reviews posted there in the Blog section) and the listing for the book.)

Okay, being the impatient sort, I read a good section of the book last night and looked through the patterns about a million times.  Which to pick?  So many caught my eye.  I finally decided on the Strata Sphere.  I like it for a few reasons.  The length, drape and shaping is appealing to me.  I want something a bit more fitted, and I think if I make this in a size one, it’ll fit the bill.  After examining the instructions and schematics, the Strata appears to be pretty straightforward.  There’s no lace work or really complex patterns.   And finally, I love how it incorporates so many colors but that the effect is simply made by using hand-painted (variegated) yarn rather than using combining single colors of yarn.  I can handle that! 

So, the yarn has now been acquired.  Since this is my first attempt at a Swirl (or any complex knitted thing), I decided to use the same yarn as suggested by the author rather than trying to figure out an acceptable substitution.  The yarn is Noro Silk Garden, and I went with colorway 211.  (I carefully looked at a LOT of the colorways that appealed to me in the finished projects at Ravelry, and 211 quickly emerged as a favorite!)

My plan is to start swatching next week.  Swatching is such a not fun part of knitting, but it needs to be done.  Gauge is really important, so I need to suck it up and swatch away.  I pray I’m lucky and get gauge right off the bat!  After that, it’ll be a “swirling” summer. I have no illusions about knitting this thing quickly. I need to have three projects on the needles at all times so I can switch around depending on my mood.  Right now, my mock cable cami is off the needles, but I still need to make the crocheted straps (which is a whole ‘nother story), but I have my Sunday Market Shawl and Rococo Shawl still in progress.  So, I’ll be knitting shawls like crazy (as well as maybe foraying into some socks or a skirt I have the yarn for once one of the shawls is done) this summer, but I’m not going to put any pressure on myself to get something done.  I’m suppose to enjoy this!

Wish me luck!

{May 23, 2011}   Late May Projects

Wow, I’m really bad at blogging!  It’s been a long time.  I guess that’s okay.  Less time spent blogging and talking about my hobbies means more time to actually do them!  And I’ve definitely been doing some knitting.

I have summer on the brain, and so my current WIPs are summer items.  I wish the weather was more summer like.  This spring so far has proven to be wet, cool and dreary.  It’s so sad. However, I hold out hope that nice spring weather will turn up and stay any day now, gradually turning into the hot, steamy summer weather that I love. 

Currently on my needles –

Mock Cable Cami – I’ve actually been working on this since March, but I’ve had to frog it three times.  I’m finally on track with it, and am almost halfway through knitting the main body.  It’s a very simple tube, knitted in the round with a faux cable stitch, to which I will eventually attached crocheted straps.  I love the color, and the feel of the fabric is marvelous.  It’s very soft and, well, I hate to say “heavy” feeling, but it feels substantial. It’s not a light tank, yet it’s loosely knit and the yarn (Knit Picks Shine Worsted) is mostly cotton.  Here it is –

Here’s a close up, where you can see the mock ribbing –

Rococo Shawl – I think this shawl is stunning.  I hope mine turns out as well.  I’m using a gorgeous deep plum/purple yarn.  I completed the bottom ruffle this past weekend, and decreasing from the initial 432 stitches down to a more manageable 260-something is a relief!  It’s knitting up well, though, and I’m really excited to finish it. Here it is as of now –

The picture doesn’t do the color justice. Here’s a close up (which still doesn’t do the color justice) –

Sunday Market Shawl – And finally, a little shawl I casted on today.  I couldn’t resist.  The claret red Naturally Caron Country yarn has been calling to me, and this is such a summer shawl.  Very open and airy, more decorative than functional. 

Call me crazy for having three projects going at once, but I bet most knitters have been there, done that. I’m probably small potatoes only having three on the needles!  I just like the variety of having different projects to pick up and knit depending on my mood.  Besides, the Rococo is going to take me awhile, so the (semi) instant gratification of the quick Sunday Market appealed to me.

So, that’s where I’m at.  I’m feeling really good about my knitting.  I feel like I’m becoming more of a Knitter.  Yeah, with a capital “K.”  I’m starting to really understand what I’m doing.  My ability to “read” my knitting is increasing, as is my ability to fix mistakes as I make them.  It’s such a great process to really learn something.  When the light of comprehension dawns, it’s really cool.

I hope to be less long in posting my next progress report.  Now, if I could only find the time and motivation to really hit my hooping hard, life would be perfect!

Yes, it is finished!  Almost exactly one month after I started, my very first sock ever is completed.  I’m not that slow, I just shelved it for awhile to work on other things – namely knitting the Garmin cozy for my mother-in-law which enabled me to practice using double-pointed needles (DPNs).  Learning two new things at once can be a bit much. However, once I got the hang of knitting with the DPNs, I discovered I absolutely love them, and so the sock was a joy to work on. 

First off, I am extremely proud.  Sock knitting seemed really daunting and overwhelming to me.  Reading about all the various techniques (cuff down or toe up; DPNs, 1 circ or 2 circs using Magic Loop; turning the heel; gussets; decreases for toes; grafting) boggled the mind.  There are many different ways to knit socks, and there are thousands upon thousands of patterns.  You can custom fit your socks to the recipient’s foot, tailoring the cuff length, heel turn, length, instep, etc.  Wow!  So much to learn.  However, before you can run, you need to learn to walk, so I needed to start with a very basic sock, done in one of the traditional manners.

I chose Silver’s Sock Class, which is an on-line tutorial.  I don’t know who Silver is, but her sock class is fabulous, and I thank her from the bottom of my heart!  I highly recommend it for anyone wanting to learn how to knit socks.  The directions are clear and concise, and there are plenty of pictures.  I was literally never totally lost.  Sure there were times when I was a bit confused, but that wasn’t the fault of the tutorial.  It was my own slower comprehension. I always figured it out!

Okay, so, how do I feel about the sock knitting process and my finished sock? Read on – but first a teaser.  Here was my sock when it was not yet done and still on the needles. I had to try it on just to make sure it really was going to look like a sock and at least kind of fit me!

The Almost Done Sock - still on the needles!


The Almost Done Sock - other side.

Yes, it was looking like a sock, and it did appear to be fitting me.  (Keep in mind, that the sock on the needles is inside out.) By the way, I love that you can try something on while it’s still on the needles.  I find it really fun to do that.
The Good
It’s done!  That’s the most important thing.  I stuck with it, I persevered, and I finished it.  Yes, it was exciting to get going on the DPNs, initially the 2×2 rib pattern for the cuff was fun, turning the heel was a complete thrill, watching the gussets and toe decreases appear was like magic, and the fact that I grafted the toe shut using the Kitchener stitch (something that kind of kicked my ass when I tried it before) was amazing, but some of the stuff in between got a little tedious.  However, that’s knitting.  That’s the nature of the beast.  There are going to be “boring parts.”  I try to think of them as opportunities for moments of Zen.  🙂
It’s also very good that the sock does resemble a sock.  Every major component is done, done mostly correctly, and I now have an understanding of sock construction and the basic techniques.  Having knowledge in one’s head is a good thing.  The challenge now is to put it to good use, expand on it, and master it.  There are definitely more socks in my future!
My feelings of accomplishment and pride as mentioned above are also good.  Knowing that I can learn new knitting techniques gives me confidence.  I can’t wait to delve into more socks, my first shawl (the Harry Shawl) and the Aidez cardigan I recently acquired the yarn for. I’m not afraid!  I can do these things!
In addition to basic sock construction, I learned a lot of things from this lowly sock.  As noted, I CAN DO NEW THINGS!  That’s a biggie.  Also as noted, knitting in the round on circulars, something that used to terrify and intimidate me, now feels very natural and good.  I really enjoy working with those DPNS!  I learned a little bit about decreases and how they relate to each other, how they should slant, etc.  I don’t have a totally firm grasp on it yet, but I’m starting to make sense of it.  Another biggie – I was able to successfully use the always-confusing Kitchener stitch.  My grafting looked really good!  In fact, it might have been the best part of the sock!
Finally, I think what may come out of this as a very good lesson is that during the knitting of the sock (while I was doing the foot section), I dropped a stitch which fell down about 3 rows.  Believe it or not, it was my first dropped stitch!  Well, the first one that I realized immediately that it had dropped. I suspect I’ve made the mistake before and didn’t catch it.  (Aha!  I’m gaining experience!!)  When I saw it, I immediately stopped, pulled out my Knitting Visual Quick Tips book (seriously, this is a fabulous resource!) and a crochet hook, and fixed that dropped stitch right up.  Really, it was kind of a thrill
The Bad and The Ugly
I’m lumping these together because really, what’s the difference.  This sock could never be considered a good, finely-constructed sock.  It’s my first attempt, and as such, it’s rudimentary and, I’ll say, it bad . . . and it’s ugly too.  But, I don’t mind.  I love this sock!  I’ll never make the mate for it, and I’ll never wear it, but I will treasure it always.
 Some issues with the socks are – a few holes where I must have dropped stitches or something (I still can’t “read” my knitting very well), some laddering at the joins of the round (which I can’t figure out because I’m diligent about pulling those first few stitches on a needle snugly), some gaps in the gussets (although I read it’s common to have a gap or small hole appear in this area), a bad join when I had to start a new ball of yarn, and some other little things like wonky stitches.  It also doesn’t fit me. It’s way too big. I think when I measured both my foot and the sock, I erred on the generous side.  With socks, I must remember that they stretch, and that perhaps it’s best to err on the conservative side.   I also suspect that I got something turned around after I turned the heel.  On the foot part, the stockinette part is on the INSIDE.  I’m pretty sure it would look better on the outside.  I’m not sure what happened.  I’ve made a mental note to be very careful to follow directions next time right after the heel turn.
So, yeah, the seams look bulky (well, the whole sock looks bulky, which it is), but considering the yarn I used, I don’t think they are too far off.   I used a DK weight yarn (Reynolds Revue) because it’s more substantial than the usual sock yarn (which is fingering weight) and thus easier to work with.  The addition of fine, thin yarn to learning new techniques (working with DPNs and sock knitting) would’ve proven to be way too much.  Using the heavier yarn took one thing off my plate. 
Well, here are some pictures of the finished project. Don’t laugh!  Instead, I hope you are impressed by my fledgling attempt at sock knitting.  I’ll be saving this sock, and I hope to someday have a good laugh when I compare it to the expertly knitted socks I’ll be doing then.  One ugly sock isn’t going to keep me from trying again.  Knitting socks is fun!

Finished Sock, Side View 1


Finished Sock - Side View 2


Finished Sock - Head On View

I’m not sure why that last picture wouldn’t rotate, but you get the idea.
Off to knit!  Not another sock quite yet.  I think I’ll go back to that simple tank top that’s been kicking my butt, and I also want to cast on for the Harry Shawl.  Of course, as usual, there are dishcloth patterns galore begging me to knit them, and I really want to start my lessons from my Fearless Knitting Workbook.  So much knitting, so little time!

{May 2, 2011}   WIPS & Stash

My love affair with my knitting continues!  I accomplished a LOT in April!  I learned how to knit in the round on DPNS (something that initially seemed so intimidating is now one of my favorite things to do!), I started (and am almost done with my first sock – see below), and I cranked out some dishcloths.  I updated my Knit Happens – Project Journal just now.  Please check it out for photos of the projects I finished in April.

So, my current project is the socks!  I cast on, knit the leg, worked the heel flap, turned the heel (so, so exciting!), did the gussets (just as exciting as the heel) and am now working my way down the foot.  Up next is the toe decreases and grafting the toes.  I suspect the foot part is being knitted inside out – my mistake – but we’ll see when I’m done. This has been such an exciting project! I was really scared to learn socks, but also I was very intrigued.  I’m really enjoying it!  I’m using Silver’s Sock Class, and it is an incredibly great, easy-to-follow tutorial.  Thank you, Silver, whoever you are!

Here are some pictures of my work-in-progress (WIP) –

My First Sock - Knitting the LegMy First Sock - The turned heel!

I also recently swatched for my upcoming first shawl.  I wanted a lighter weight summer shawl that was substantial in size, cool enough for summer but warm enough to keep away the chill on a breezy day or chilly evening.  I also wanted to make sure it was sweat and water proof.  I don’t want to worry if my shawl blows into the lake!  I decided on the Harry Shawl pattern, and picked up some Crystal Palace Mini Mochi Yarn in colorway 120, Fireworks.  It’s 80% merino superwash and 20% nylon (fingering weight sock yarn), so no worries if it gets a little wet!  It’s wool, but it’s also light and airy, so it’ll be perfect for keeping warm when it’s not too terribly cold.  I seem to have lost the picture I took of it.  I’ll add it when I post about casting on the shawl!  So far I’ve just swatched.  Interestingly, I got roughly the same guage on both US 7 and US 8 needles.  Since the pattern says gauge is not critical, I’m going to go with the 8s and try to keep my knitting quite loose. 
 I’ve also got plans for another shawl.  My aunt gave me yarn for my recent birthday!  I LOVE that!!  She doesn’t knit, but she bravely went into a knitting store and picked out a skein.  She has great taste!  Here’s the gorgeous yarn (Lang Yarns – Tosca Light in colorway 777.0016, which is 55% wool and 45% acrylic fingering) –

Tosca Light from Kathy

You can see the colors a bit better here – self-striping and so pretty!

Gorgeous Colors!

Since I only have one skein, I had to choose my project carefully. I’m going with another shawl, the Multnomah.  I can’t wait!

And finally, I recently stashed some wool for my first sweater, which I hope to start on after the summer shawls are completed (and my first set of socks, and possibly the second) are done.  For the Aidez cardigan, I’ve chosen Berroco’s Peruvia Quick (100% Peruvian Highland Wool, chunky weight) in Blanco.  Yeah, it’s just plain white, but it is so, so rich looking, and I wanted an everyday cardigan I could throw on over anything in the fall and winter months. This yarn is so rich and soft, I just want to pile it all up on the floor and roll in it!

Peruvia Quick in Blanco

So, that’s where I’m at!  Plenty to do, and I’m so excited to do it.  I’d better stop blogging and start knitting!



{April 27, 2011}   A Nearly Perfect Day

Today is my birthday, and I must say, it’s been truly wonderful.  No big parties.  No surprises.  No expensive gifts.  The treasure of the day, the gift I received, was the gift of time well spent.  Really, is there anything better? 

I took the day off work.  I always take my birthday off work.  Why spend my one uniquely special day of the year at a job which, quite frankly, I don’t necessarily love?  I slept in a bit.  Not too much.  For me, early morning is the very sweetest part of the day.  I got up and hit my workout room for part one of my workout – cardio.  Today I chose rebounding.  (Yes, as it is now not cool to call “running,” “jogging,” it is no longer acceptable to call a “rebounder” a “mini trampoline.  What’s the diff?)  I didn’t have a lot of time before the family was up, and I wanted something somewhat intense.  Rebounding fit the bill.  I did Urban Rebounding Advanced, and honestly, I don’t always have fun during Urban Rebounder workouts, but today’s session did have me laughing and having fun.  Thirty-five minutes later, I had a nice sweat going, and felt pleasantly worked out, particularly in my legs and core. 

After the kids and Scott, who all greeted me with smiles and birthday wishes when they got up, left, it was back down for the second part of my workout – my beloved Metamorphosis Hipcentric muscular structure work.  I’m on day 2 of Level 7, and yeah, it’s very intense.  But, as with all things Tracy Anderson, intense doesn’t necessarily mean brutal.  I work my ass off while doing them, but Tracy’s workouts always make me feel good.  I’m feeling so much stronger since starting my Meta rotation in February. 

After a Pomegranate Strawberry Smoothie (part of my Flat Belly Diet, of course) for breakfast, a quick cruise through my on-line hangouts to check in with my buds, and a shower, I was on the road to St. Cloud (a nearby bigger city).  Just driving along the freeway with some music blaring, I was feeling really good. Am I the only one who belts out Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” at the top of her lungs when alone in a car – even when I can’t sign for crap??  I always feel like a rock start when I sing that song. 

My first stop was the LYS (knit speak for “local yarn store”).  Bonnie’s Spinning Wheel in St. Cloud is a nice, homey place.  I had only been there once before, and Bonnie, the owner, was busy with a gaggle of knitters so I didn’t get to talk to her much, but I really enjoyed browsing and touching all that gorgeous yarn!  (Plus on that first visit I picked up two skeins of Malabrigo yarn, and I didn’t even know it was considered really great yarn. I just liked it. I still have no idea what I’m going to do with it.  I’m saving it for just the right thing.)  Today, after a brief wait, I was able to spend time with Jackie, one of the employees.  Jackie very graciously helped me pick out some beautiful yarn for the summer wrap I want to start soon (some Mini Mochi sock yarn in an awesome colorway), she answered a question I had about another pattern for a project I also want to start soon, and she looked at the sock currently on my needles. I turned my first heel last night, and something ended up not quite right.  Jackie took a look, explained how I could fix it without frogging, and then gladly ripped it (frogged) it back for me to the end of the heel flap when I told her I really wanted to go back and do it again.  Partially frogging a project scares me because I can’t ever get all the stitches back on the needle.  Jackie showed me how to do it.  I will stilll have fear the next time I try, but hopefully I’ll have a bit more confidence.

So, 50-some dollars and almost two hours later (three skeins of the yarn, a set of bamboo US 7 straights, and a few little goodies), and I was on my way.  I didn’t know Jackie before, and I was grateful for the gift of her time in helping me out.  She even asked me to come back in and show her the wrap when I was done with it.  I will definitely do that.  I made a quick stop at Crafts Direct to pick up a few knitting doo-dads which I knew were cheaper there, and then it was off for lunch.

My dear friend, Christi, and I have a tradition of meeting in a town about halfway between each of our houses for lunch on or near our birthdays.  We both had the day off, so today was the day!  How fun to do it on my actual birthday.  We had a delicious lunch and Noodles & Company and spent an hour and a half visiting.  Christi gifted me with a gift certificate to Bonnie’s.  Joy!  Now I have a reason to go back!

Arriving back at home, I spent some time looking at the birthday cards I had received in the mail, and opening some presents from friends/neighbors.  I also talked on the phone to all who called to wish me a happy day, and responded to some texts. 

I then spent 35 minutes hooping, and I’m so happy to say that I returned to attempting a trick I had given up on last fall when I was still hooping intensely.  A vertical step through to the side was proving difficult for me then.  I could get it okay stepping to the right, but not at all to the left.  Today I discovered I can do it both ways!  It’s not totally smooth yet, but wow!  I’m impressed that I made progress without even working on it.  Sometimes really delightful stuff like that happens.  It made me smile.  Hooping, lately, has brought me a lot of joy.  I’m not so obsessive with it, and I think I’m just finally relaxing into it and just being with it. 

After some blissful hooping, I moved on to some feel-good yoga ((Sara Ivanhoe’s Zen Yoga from FitTV).  Ahhh, 45 minutes of work and stretch.  It was so nice. Yoga in infrequent doses is best for me.  It’s like I appreciate it more and put more of myself into it, with proportionate results.  I feel really happy and content after a yoga session now.

This evening?  I’m just spending a quiet night at home with the kids.  Scott is at a meeting, and as soon as I sign off and call my mother-in-law to wish her a happy birthday (yes, we share the same birthday – just 20 years apart!), I am going to happily curl up in my chair and knit to my heart’s content.  This time I’ll turn that heel perfectly!

So, yeah, just a really, really nice day.  Time well spent makes me happy.

{April 22, 2011}   Spring: Things Are Feeling Fresh & New!

Well, not outside.  The weather we’ve been having of late certainly doesn’t feel like spring, and so far the cold temps and occasional snow (yes, snow – anything is possible in Minnesota) have prevented much freshness and newness from springing forth in nature.  Hopefully we’ll have green grass, buds on the trees and flowers soon.  The birds have returned, so those other things can’t be too far behind. 

Speaking of birds, and before I get too far into this, I must share.  I came upon a cute idea in a knitting book I was reading recently and gave it a try.  I took the scrap yarn (you know, the bits and pieces you snip here and there) from my last few projects and scattered it onto the bushes outside my house.  The idea is that the birds will pick up and use the scrap yarn in the building of their nest.  Wow!  I find that such a cool idea.  I love the fact that my yarn will be lining the birds’ nests, giving them a nice soft (not to mention brightly colored!) space to hatch and care for their babies.  I’ve been watching, but so far I haven’t seen a bird actually take any yarn.  I hope they are!  I’d love to catch of glimpse of one flying away with a brightly colored piece of yarn hanging from its beak!  If only the weather were nicer.  I’d sit in my front porch rocking chair, knitting in hand and keep an eye out for birds hovering near the bushes.

Okay, back to discussing where spring has actually sprung and what actually is feeling fresh and new in my life. 

 My hooping has once again renewed, revived and re-asserted itself in my psyche!  I have fallen in love again!  This second time around, I find it’s not the all-consuming love it was for the first several months I was hooping. It’s not obsession, but it’s still passion. There’s such a world of difference. 

I’ve been hooping regularly for the past week and a half.  Not every day but whenever the mood strikes and life allows.  I am relaxed with it.  I’m just flowing, not working on anything specific, and just being with the hoop.  I’m still borrowing heavily from Sandra  for ideas and have been using the combinations from class as a springboard.  I’m finding I’m combining them in unique ways and meandering from them into other things.  I just play and when I stumble on something or something catches my attention, I may stop and work on that one particular thing for a little while.  I never beat myself up.  If something isn’t going well, I don’t judge. I just move on to something else.  It’s like I’ve gone back to the basics a little bit.  It’s very comfortable, and I feel very at ease.  I find myself smiling during my session and getting lost from time to time just in the flow and dance of things.  It’s really fabulous!  What a great attitude to have as I approach my one year “hoopiversary!”  Shall I celebrate the day (April 30) in some special way?

In other hobby news, I just got off a dishcloth jag by finishing up three dishcloths for my mother as part of a birthday gift. (I’ll be posting pictures and details by Monday.) Okay, I love knitting dishcloths.  I really do.  I love how small and quick they are, and I love how they allow me to learn new patterns and techniques without the fear of messing up something big.  HOWEVER, these last three dishcloths kind of lost appeal for me.  I think it was the pressure of getting them done and knowing they were a gift, so I wanted them to be perfect.  One actually did turn out perfect (well, as close to perfect as something made by human hands can be); but I have some issues with the other two.  I’m a tad disappointed, but I know my sweet mother.  She will be overjoyed when I give them to her tonight at her birthday party.  She’s a sucker for homemade gifts, no matter what the skill level.  Gotta’ love Mom!

I have more dishcloths I want to make, and I actually need some myself, so I will get back to them.  For now, though, I need a break.  Earlier today I picked up my sock that I started a few weeks ago and I fell in love all over again!  I’m just learning to knit with DPNs, and I had forgotten how much I was enjoying them.  When I started working with them today, it came right back to me, and I was actually beaming while I was working with them!  Seriously.  How can something so simple make me so happy?  I think it’s the slight “trickyness” of DPNs. I feel somewhat proud that I’m able to work with them and that I no longer look like I’m wrestling a porcupine (although I think no one, no matter how experienced, ever looks truly graceful while using DPNs, but I could be wrong).  I love how delicate the needles are (well, they’re size 3s, which aren’t ultra delicate but compared to the straights I’ve mostly used to-date, these seem very small), and I like the lighter, thinner  DK weight yarn I’m using.  It’s just totally a pleasure to knit on this project.  I’m going to try to remember this feeling, as I strongly suspect that once I get through the “easy” part of the ankle section of the sock and have to tackle turning the heel, I might not have such a glowy, warm fuzzy feeling! 

That’s the place I’m at right now.  Total contentment with both the hoop and the yarn.  A second, more mellow but ultimately more fulfilling honeymoon if you will.  It truly feels like spring in my soul and things are fresh and new for me!  Looking forward to really blooming with both hobbies over the summer!

{April 13, 2011}   Finding Flow

Flow is a term used in hooping (well, probably used in a lot of different areas) for how one moves with the hoop.  The movements, the dance, the tricks, the vibe – how it all comes together in an artistic form of self-expression. I’ve always struggled with finding mine in hooping, and I didn’t know it existed in knitting.  This week, I’m learning some new things.

For whatever reason, I stepped away from the hoops sometime in March.  It wasn’t a conscious decision.  I just noticed one day that I hadn’t really been hooping.  That realization, however, didn’t cause me to get back to it. I just never really felt like it.  When I thought about it, it made me sad in a way.  How could I not want to do something I’ve grown to love over the past 11 months since I started?  Was all the time, effort and money I put into hooping now a waste?  Why do I get so obsessed with something, do it to death and then drop it like it’s a bad habit infecting my life?  Why can’t I do things in moderation?

Okay, so those were the thoughts going through my head.  Over-react much, Shelley?  Finally, I said to myself, “Get a grip. You haven’t abandoned hooping forever.  You’re going through a phase.  As you yourself have  blogged, to everything there is ebb and flow.  You’re ebbing now on the hoop thing, but you’ll flow with it again.”  I gave myself permission to feel that not hooping is okay.  And it is.

A week or two ago, I felt the urge to hoop again.  However, I questioned the reason for that urge (real desire or guilt?) because although I expressed to myself a desire to hoop, I didn’t take the time to make it happen.  Was it really that important to me?  Well, since then I did pick up the hoop again.  During the first session or two, I wasn’t really feeling it.  I mean, I felt lost. I felt like I couldn’t remember have the tricks I knew how to do.  I felt like I had absolutely no flow – even “bad flow” would be preferable to no flow.  I focused on some moves and practiced, I just danced a bit.  Nothing seemed to make a spark. 

The other day I hooped for 20 minutes or so and again, I felt like I was going nowhere with it.  So, I glanced through my Hoop City class notebook and saw my page of notes for Sandra’s combinations from the Seeding 1 class.  Hmmm, it had been awhile since I practiced those.  I started with Combo 1, which only involves 5 simple moves.  However, it had been awhile. I was rusty.  I made mistakes.  So, for the next 20 minutes all I did was work on that combination.  I worked on it going to the left (my natural current) and to the right (my non-natural current).  You know what?  It started to feel really good.  Once I had a focus, I felt some flow coming back. I made mistakes, I dropped the hoop A LOT (especially considering how easy the moves are), but I felt good.  I’m going to continue until I have it (nearly) perfect and then move on to combo 2.  I think this might be a good way to get my hoop mojo back.  There’s a lot of talk in hooping about everyone needing to find their own flow, do their own thing, yada yada yada.  Sometimes it ain’t happening.  Sometimes someone else has to tell you how and where to move.  Sometimes it’s best not to leave yourself to your own devices.

First flow lesson of the week learned?  If you can’t find your own flow, borrow someone elses for awhile!

Now, how does flow apply to knitting?  Actually I had no idea that it did until the other day when I was working on the Garmin cozy for my mother-in-law, which is knit in the round on DPNs.  I still haven’t quite gotten over the thrill of being able to use DPNs, and when I was happily knitting away I noticed that I lost track of time, how I focused totally and completely on my knitting and just generally got lost in it.  I realized, I was in flow.   Wow.

Now normally if pressed to think about it, I’d think flow in knitting would be when one is very comfortable doing what they’re doing.  They’re knitting adeptly and with ease.  There isn’t a lot of conscious effort going into it, the stitches are just flying off the needles, almost as if by their own accord.  But you know what?  I don’t think that’s it.  I mean, I think that can be it.  I think you can definitely get into a “knitting zone” or Zen-type session when the needles almost seem to work themselves like magic, but what’s more probable, in my opinion, is that  knitting like that might be more like being on auto pilot.  Knitting like that probably means your mind is free to wander at will. One could watch TV, hold an in-depth conversation or do anything else with the mind or the rest of the body.  The knitting seems to be taking care of itself.

The flow I’m noticing I’m experiencing is born of not yet being totally comfortable with knitting, especially on DPNs.  When I knit, especially with DPNS, I have to focus.  Sure, I can keep one ear tuned into the TV, or I can listen to those around me talk and give short answers back, but basically the bulk of my attention has to be focused on what I’m doing with my hands, the sticks and the string.  I have to mentally tell myself whether to knit or purl.   I have to be conscious of making sure to move the working yarn in the right direction around the needle.  I have to stop to count stitches.  In short I have to be very wrapped up in what I am doing.  One would think that all this mental effort (not to mention the physical effort of moving the needles and yarn) would mean that there was no flow.  That what I was doing was more active and more like work.  I find, however, that that’s not what it is.  When I knit, my focus on it takes over.  For the most part, I forget what’s going on around me (or largely tune it out), I forget any life issues I’m dealing with or those constant nagging thoughts that always seem to run through one’s head.  I lose track of time.  All conscious thought is focused on what I am doing, and once in awhile I stop and think, “This is it.  I’m in flow.”  I find it amazing.  Flow seems like it should be a more natural state, like it should be effortless, like it should be . . . well, I don’t know . . . more flow-y.  With my knitting, though, that’s not what it is. 

I’m reading Adrienne Martini’s book, Sweater Quest (which, by the way, is fabulous, and I’m enjoying it very much), and interestingly shortly after I realized that yes, I do have a flow in knitting, I got to the part in the book where Ms. Martini discuss the very concept of knitting flow.  Her idea if is or her flow is slightly different from mine, but part of what makes up flow is that it’s different for everyone.  Yea!  Confirmation.  It’s not just me.  There really is a flow in knitting! 

Second flow lesson of the week learned?  There IS such a thing as flow in knitting, and I can now recognize mine!

Finally, a parting thought on flow and how it manifests itself.  A.  It’s different for everyone not matter what they are doing.  Part of flow is that it’s a very individual thing.  B.  For me, flow in knitting is very different from flow in hooping.  Hooping flow to me has more of that natural, organic feel.  When I find flow (whether it’s my own or someone elses) it comes easy.  I move from one trick to the next without a lot of conscious thought.  It’s like my body, while not on auto pilot because I’m definitely attuned and thinking about what I’m doing, is working the hoop of its own accord.  I’m not putting a ton of conscious thought into what should come next; things are just coming.  With knitting, there is a whole lot of conscious thought going into the process, but it’s the conscious thought that consumes me and puts me into that somewhat Zen state of “flowing” with the knitting.  I find these differences so interesting. 

Off to look at more things I do that have a flow!  The possibilities, I’m sure, are endless.

et cetera