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Two days in a row! I am not sure if that is a victory, exactly, but it feels like a good start.

Today’s color, Medusa, is similar to yesterday’s … almost too similar. I am knitting 3-row stripes of each color, and at some points it is a little difficult to tell. Shadow stripes work for me, so I am going with it.

Look at me all fancy with the collage.

I knit until I ran out of the Hades color from yesterday, and I was able to complete the fifth stripe with enough yarn to easily weave in the tail but not so much that I feel like I am wasting it — an easy yet satisfying yarn chicken victory.

I may try for a picture with better light tomorrow.

Adding tomorrow’s color will get me to the heel, at which point I will have to decide whether to knit the heel with the third color or wait for color four. The suspense is almost unbearable, right?

The dyer at Dragon Hoard Yarn Company is by far the most enthusiastic fan of Halloween I have ever seen, encountered, or met. She is hard core. The house is festooned with decorations inside and out. It takes several days to get everything done. If you want to check it out, in this video she says that the process is a quarter to a third done. Decoration shots start at the 2-minute mark.

She’s so creative. I follow everything she does. Well, what I can see on her web site and Instagram. I suspect more happens on Facebook, but I do not Facebook. Her yarn colors are complex, and her patterns are fun to make. Okay, enough fangirling. The point is that as a result of following her work, my Halloween exposure is several orders of magnitude higher than usual, and I started thinking Halloween sweater thoughts.

Now, I already had this crazy notion of including sweater knitting in my list of October goals and tasks, but it really should either be finishing a sweater already in progress or knitting a sweater for someone else. The problem with the someone else sweater is that I am having a hard time finding a pattern I like which matches the gauge of the yarn I am going to use, so it has thus far been a frustrating rather than an enjoyable experience. Knitting should not be stressful, especially when knitting for someone else. You want those stitches filled with love rather than aggravation.

What I really don’t want to have happen is that it gets late in October before I actually make a decision and take action. As of this writing, I have not made a final decision, but I came across these adorable ghosts, and they pretty much said, “Knit me!”

Fall Favorites by BadWolfGirlStudios

(Unfortunately, you have to click the link. I can’t enable the link preview without breaking something else. There must be a way.)

The pattern is actually a collection. In addition to the ghosts, there are cats and pumpkins and leaves. They all look like fun. I will see what I can come up with for yarn and find the time to do a gauge swatch and go from there!

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This post really should come after a post about how I had the discipline to knit an entire sweater in eight days mostly because I stopped dithering about whether to start and when to start and which pattern to make and just sat down and knit the thing. Between that accomplishment and going for a walk first thing in the morning every morning for the past 19 days in a row, I am feeling downright disciplined. On the other hand, I was thinking that this post would be done sometime this afternoon, and it is almost 6:30 p.m., but I am not going to dwell on that fact. The point is that I haven’t called it a day yet because I can meet this goal, too, and add a few more. Bring on the plans!!

Right. So. Socktober. I mentioned my Socktober plan in a previous post, and today I got started.

A box of 31 individually bagged mini skeins of yarn and a shiny new set of needles.

If you aren’t a knitter, or even not a sock knitter, you might wonder what sort of craziness is afoot. (Ha!) Lots of knitters in the northern hemisphere get very excited about the transition from summer to autumn. The temperatures drop, the sun sets earlier, and the trees start shedding their leaves. You call it autumn. We call it knitting season — time to get out those hand knit sweaters and hats and gloves and mittens and … SOCKS.

Sock knitters can be something of a special breed. They are passionate about needle choices and knitting styles and yarn weight and fiber content and the best way to knit heels, toes, and gussets. Ankle socks or knee highs? Striping, cabled, lace, fair isle? Toe-up or top down? Magic loop, small circulars, or DPNs? And so on. Myself, I am a toe-up, magic loop, one at a time, Fish Lips Kiss Heel sock knitter, and if I am using sock\fingering weight yarn, I use two strands together to make thicker yarn.

I opened the silver satin bag labeled October 1 and extracted a small skein of yarn in a color named Hades. Given that the color integrates black with shades of turquoise and gray, I suspect that the inspiration is the depiction of the god Hades (entertainingly voiced by James Woods) in the animated Disney movie Hercules. Whatever the case, it’s a good start to the adventure.

I didn’t get quite as much practice and prep work done as I had hoped, so I am improvising as I go. The yarn in the box adds up to a bit more than six full skeins of yarn, which means at least six pairs of socks and quite possibly seven or eight. There is no need to make each pair the same way, although if I find a groove I like, I might stick with it.

Some aspects will be the same. They will all be worked upward from the toe. I will start with 16 stitches and increase to 48. I love the moment when the toe starts to take shape. It makes me happy every time.

Beginning of the first toe (photobombed by the cable of the knitting needle)

From there I can stripe or color block. I might get crazy with some color work or slipped stitches, but I doubt it. There will likely be stitch patterns at some point. The beauty of having 48 stitches is that 48 is divisible by so many numbers that lots of patterns will work.

This first pair will be simple, starting out with the toe worked in the first color. Tomorrow I will add the second color and work, probably, three-row stripes of each. When the first color runs out, I will add the third color, and so on. There is the question of the heel. The type of heel I use really needs to be worked in the same yarn. Is that the fourth color, which could then be used as the cuff, too, or the toes on the next sock? I’m taking a “choose your own adventure” approach and will decide when I get there (and depending on how many stripes I get out of the first color.

In the meantime, I have two sock toes.

Tune in tomorrow …

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Monogamous knitting has never been my strong suit. Although I do get projects finished (eventually and occasionally quickly), I am more of a *squirrel!* knitter. I am easily distracted by some new project or yarn or idea or even by a reminder of a previous possible project. Sometimes I rapidly work through the knitting and then fail on the finishing.

Sock Pile

For example, my coping mechanism for the first several months of this year was knitting socks. I would cast on, knit, bind off, and move on to the next — whether the mate of the pair or a whole new pair — without stopping to weave in ends, wash, and block the previous item. As a result, when I decided to finally finish all of those socks so that I could wear them, I had a pile of twelve pairs of socks.

These days I am trying to focus a bit more … with somewhat limited success.

I have finished the striped socks mentioned in the previous post and started a second pair. I would like to get a third pair of a different variation either finished or well underway by October 1st so that I am ready to start with my marvelous minis from Dragon Hoard Yarn. I was feeling all focused and motivated when the distractions started (resumed might be a better word since this is not an uncommon occurrence).

First came the snow socks. There is a yarn line called Regia which produces lovely self-striping and self-patterning sock yarn, usually fingering weight, sometimes sport weight. The fine folks at Spinning Yarns in Dover, New Hampshire, sent me an e-mail to let me know that this year Regia is offering worsted weight, self-patterning sock yarn in five different “snow” colors. Worsted weight. Self-patterning. Sock yarn. Sign me up. I couldn’t get myself out the door fast enough.

Snow sock in progress

As an added bonus, the skeins are 150 grams rather than a more standard 100 grams, so with a little supplementation from my stash, I should be able to get two pairs of socks out of a single skein. I cast on as soon as I got home, and it’s going well so far. One sock is finished, and I am well on my way with the second.

The second distraction was a cowl, but at least it did not involve new yarn or a new project. A friend and I had a conversation about Copenhagen Calling (Ravelry link), a cowl pattern designed by Isabell Kraemer. It inspired me to dig out the partially finished one I had languishing in a project bag somewhere. Except that it turned out to be a completely different pattern, although by the same designer.

Beloved Berlin cowl in progress

I started Beloved Berlin (Ravelry link) at least two years ago, and quite possibly three, right about this same time of year. For some reason the approach of Halloween inspires me to knit in related colors more than any other holiday or season. If I want to actually finish the projects in time for the holiday, however, I really should start in July, which I can’t quite bring myself to do.

The good news is that I was farther along in the project than I remembered. The less good news is that it is 352 stitches knit in fingering weight yarn on a size 3 needle, so there was a fair bit of knitting left to do. Each round takes about 20 minutes, and I had about 40 rounds to go, plus the bind off. I have made more progress since this picture was taken, and I am down to 9 rows, so if I don’t get distracted yet again by something else, it could be finished this week.

Once it is finished, perhaps I will go back to an even older Halloween project, a pair of socks which I started before I figured out that I could turn fingering weight yarn into thicker yarn by holding the yarn doubled. Yes, I could pull out the work I have done so far and begin again with my new preferred formula, but I am about halfway through the first sock, and I love how the colors are striping and pooling, so I will continue as is. These socks probably won’t get finished this year either, but they have waited this long, and progress is still progress. The yarn is from Oink Pigments. I think the color is called All Hail the Pumpkin King.

Right. So that list puts me at four active, in progress, projects. I could start in on the sweaters, both in progress and planned, but I will save those for next time. Let’s see if I can finish something first.

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I am not big on New Year’s Resolutions.  The way I see it is that any day is a good day to make a change for the better, make new plans, start something new, finish something old, make a habit, break a habit, whatever strikes your fancy.

I did have a thought that “more life, less work” would be a good plan.  It went right out the window on January 2nd.  So much for that idea.  January 3rd fared even worse in that regard.  Third time was apparently the charm because I managed to stop working fairly close to five o’clock.

Will I now magically stop working on time every day from now on?  No.  Of course not.  But I will keep trying, and maybe eventually I will come out on the plus side.

In addition to increasing the ratio of life to work, there is the matter of quality of life.  What do I want to do with all of this time I will have once I stop working so much?  I will strive to live my creative life, pursuing activities which support my knitting and spinning hobbies, with potential to expand into photography and return to writing.

In addition to continuing to follow my passion for knitting, spinning, and things fibery in general, I want to read more, for certain.  I used to read voraciously when I was younger and didn’t have grown up responsibilities or the great time drain the Internet.  My reading appetite increased and decreased over time, and my tastes changed.  I moved into a house I had to share with another person, so I got rid of a lot of my books.  Then I started knitting with greater focus and frequency which led to greater skill and the discovery of fabulous yarns, so my disposable income went into yarn rather than books.

Last year, and it may have started in 2017, I started to rediscover books and their enchanting possibilities.  What I have not as yet rediscovered is my reading attention span.  I worry that reading takes away from my knitting (and now spinning, which I picked up last year), which it does because I can’t really knit and read at the same time, but I need to not worry about it.  I knit for pleasure and to learn and create and as meditation, but I read for those same reasons, too.

I used to read almost exclusively fiction, but now I find myself interested in the stories of people who were or are participants in and observers of history, as well as novels by and about people who are different than me — live in a different part of the world, speak a different language, or have experiences I will never have (for good or ill).  I want to learn more about my chosen hobbies of knitting and spinning, try new techniques and improve overall.  To that end, I have set myself the goal of knitting my way through Milarrochy Heids by Kate Davies.  She has also written a memoir, Handywoman, which is on my reading list, as is the memoir of Jane Hawking, who was married to Stephen Hawking for thirty years.  If the film The Theory of Everything is to be believed, without her there would have been no Brief History of Time.  I am embarrassed to say that it never occurred to me that he had been married and that his wife would have been his primary caretaker, facing all of the challenges that responsibility would entail.

There are plenty more titles I could add to the list, along with movies to see, podcasts to explore, and music to hear, but they could (and probably should) merit posts of their own.  Or I will post sidebar lists.  Or both.

How this writing thing is going to work is still a mystery, but I am to keep writing because writing is writing.

 

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Planning to write is not writing. Outlining, researching, talking to people about what you’re doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing. ~E.L. Doctorow

I have been doing a lot of thinking about writing publicly, as in resurrecting the blog.

Ever since (and maybe a bit before) I heard those words “president-elect Donald Trump” come out of my kitchen radio on that fateful day, I have felt less inclined to keep quiet and more like I have something to say.  Out loud.  And not just to the cat.

In the last couple of years, my eyes have been opened not only to the depth of misogyny and racism and intolerance of whomever might be the “them” of the moment still so prevalent and entrenched in this land of the free and home of the brave but also made me really angry about it.  It has also made me angry that I hadn’t realized just how safe and isolated my life is.  And how luxurious.

I have a house and a car, neither of which has been threatened or destroyed by wildfire or hurricane or tsunami or earthquake.  I have heat and electricity and drinkable hot and cold running water.  (Hot running water is my absolute most favorite modern luxury.  There aren’t too many things in life better than a nice, long, hot shower.)  I have plenty of clothes and food.  I have a tiny bit of money in the bank.

As I was becoming more angry, I was also becoming more grateful.  Every night, especially if it has been a difficult day and I am having trouble falling asleep, I make a gratitude list.  If job stress is keeping me awake, it can be difficult to be grateful that I am employed, but I can still be grateful that I don’t live in a war zone, and the roof is still attached to the house.

2018 has been a challenging year.  A number of major events which I knew were inevitable came about in fairly quick succession.  They were the kinds of things which I expected to be horribly devastating and had no idea how I would handle.  I didn’t always handle them well, and there were moments when I definitely wanted the world to stop so that I could get off, but I survived them all not too much the worse for wear.

I might write about those events.  I might just write about food and yarn and books and movies.  I might rant about the injustices of the world.  But I am pretty sure that I need to stop thinking about writing and start writing.

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Okay, so maybe not eternal, but frequent and the subject of much debate.  I’m not sure that I can add anything new to the conversation, but as I become more experienced as a knitter, I do more research into techniques and fiber, and I pay more attention to the technical side of knitting — how needle size and fiber content and ply affect stitch definition, drape, and gauge.  When I ran across this post from Love Knitting, I felt compelled to add my two cents’ worth of input to the conversation.

While I see the value of a swatch, especially for a garment which needs to fit, I don’t think that it is the be all and end all. It needs to be a guideline because a 4×4 inch square is only going to tell you so much.  If there is more than one stitch pattern involved, make a swatch for each because your gauge may vary significantly.

Washing and blocking the swatch gives you some indication of how much the piece might grow, but it doesn’t tell you what the sheer weight of the fabric will do to your gauge or how long term wear will affect the item.

If it’s a cowl or scarf or shawl, maybe I don’t want to match the gauge in the pattern. Maybe I want something tighter or with more drape. I take it on a case by case basis.

When the gauge on a pattern matches the gauge listed on a yarn’s ball band, I get a bit suspicious.  Did the designer really match the yarn’s ball band gauge exactly?

The real reason for knitting a gauge swatch — or otherwise determining gauge —  is that each knitter’s gauge is unique.  And the knitter is not the only variable.  Needle material and shape, yarn weight and fiber content, and the combination of the two are all factors.  (Therefore, I’m not sure how much sense it makes to compare worsted weight knitting on square wooden needles to fingering weight knitting on round metal needles, as was done in the aforementioned post, unless it was to make that same point.)  In addition, each knitter’s preference is unique.  You might get the recommended gauge and not like the fabric.  If so, find a gauge which gives you a fabric you do like, keeping in mind that it may mean making other modifications to the pattern (i.e. stitch count or yardage requirement) in order to end up with a pleasing (and properly fitting) finished object.

While I am far from an expert knitter, my advice is this: do what makes you the most comfortable and yields the best personal results.  Don’t be afraid to experiment.  Realize that not all experiments will be successful.  Be prepared to try, try again, whether by ripping out and re-knitting or starting a new project.  Practice, practice, practice.  With or without a gauge swatch, your knitting will definitely improve with practice and persistence.

ETA: Shortly after I finished this post I came across Jill Wolcott’s thoughts on the subject of swatching and wanted to include them because she has lots of interesting things to say about knitting.

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And in which the author gets perhaps a little more personal than usual.

I am not much of a fan of New Year’s Resolutions because such a specific label is restrictive, as if there is only one day a year when you can resolve to make changes and improvements in your life.  Then, if you don’t follow through for some reason, do you have to wait until the next January 1st to start again?

I think not.

Every day is an opportunity to take stock of what you have (or have not) accomplished in previous days and then decide what to do going forward.

I have discovered that goals are more helpful, motivating, and achievable, if they are a combination of general and specific.  For example, I find “get some exercise at least five days a week” to be a more realistic achievement than “run five miles a day.”  Sometimes goals evolve from being vague to specific.  After I finished one knitting project which had been lingering for quite some time, “knit more” evolved into “finish these three projects by the end of the year.”  I didn’t specify an order or hierarchy for the projects, and I am not going to worry about actually having more than three unfinished projects (not to mention other projects I want to start).  Instead, I am going to stick with these three.  I think it helps that they are a bit of a mixed bag.  The largest project is the simplest (no fancy pattern).  The smallest project is the most complicated, and the one in between is, well, in between.  The current order seems to be to finish the middle project first and then alternate between the large, simple project and the small, complicated project, but that may change.  The point is that I keep making progress and even if I don’t do any knitting for several days, it is easy to pick up where I left off because I have a plan.

As a contradiction, the specific reading goal of fifty-two books a year is finally working out.  Last year I managed fifty-three, so this year, the goal is to read fifty-five books.  So far, so good, and hopefully it is a long-term trend which I can continue.

Cooking goals remain nebulous beyond “read cookbooks, try new recipes, be mindful of ingredients and where they come from, support local farmers and businesses,” but that’s okay because I think that it is working well so far.  I eat less processed food, and while my brain occasionally craves a fast food hamburger, my taste buds remember that the food I cook tastes so much better.  I do have a subscription to an online cooking school which I need to work into the schedule somewhere somehow, but I haven’t figured out how to make that work just yet.

My favorite accomplishment so far this year is the successful baking of oatmeal cookies, but they deserve their own post, which fits in nicely with the goal I really wanted to discuss in this post: writing.

Writing used to be a necessary cathartic process to quiet the clamoring voices in my head.  As I have made progress on various projects and goals and have generally found a better balance between work and life, the voices have quieted significantly on their own, so that while I still enjoy writing, it is not quite the necessary survival skill that it has been in the past, which means that I often find myself thinking, “I should write about that at some point,” but I don’t make it to “some point,” especially if I am going through a “stay away from the computer while not at work” phase.  (Now *there* is an extreme compound, complex sentence for you.  Watch out Marcel Proust!)

With the advent of the April session of Camp NaNoWriMo, I have decided to set a goal of getting back to writing.  I have given myself the choice of writing a blog post a day for thirty days or finishing a draft of the cookbook.  Obviously, I am starting with the blog, but I think that I will end up doing a combination of the two with the notion that if it takes thirty days to make or break a habit and if I can write every day for thirty days, then at the end of the month, I will have a new good habit.  That’s the plan at any rate.  We’ll see what happens.

In the meantime, I wanted to share the following story which came in one of the e-mail newsletters I received from the NaNoWriMo folks because I just love the positive power possibilities of the written word.  Enjoy!

Wrimo Spotlight
“My daughter Logan is borderline autistic and deals with extreme anxiety. She struggles significantly when things are not “perfect”, and just couldn’t get her words on the page. Any more than five sentences was a struggle for her. Still, I decided to try and see what would happen if I signed her up for NaNoWriMo.

By midmonth, she had attended her first write-in with my students and after that was writing non-stop. By the end of the month, she had written more than double her 1,000-word goal. What’s more, she had become a completely different child.

She was so excited about her writing, she was carrying her manuscript everywhere, had read her story to the whole class, and was writing like mad. It’s been inspiring to see the happiness and ease writing now brings her.” — Holly B.

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