Words to Think On

A few years ago I was introduced to the idea of selecting a word of the year instead of, or in concert with, new year’s resolutions. I like how this is rather less specific than, say, a resolution to lose 10 pounds or start exercising every day. It is harder to gauge progress using this method, but it is also harder to feel like a failure when you still weigh the same in December and stopped going to the gym in February.

In 2019 the word I chose for myself was Enough. I chose this word because it could mean a lot of things – good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, but also, rest because you’ve done enough. Reminding myself of these concepts helped me when I felt anxious about myself or like I was always behind or nothing I did was good. One afternoon I sat down and did a small embroidery of this word – something decorative to remind me of my goal. This embroidery should have been very simple by rights, but it turns out I don’t know when to stop. I thought about taking some of the colours out, but I decided that with all its imperfections, it was still good enough.

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This year, the word I chose was balance. I chose it before the Coronavirus pandemic took over the world, and while I didn’t have the pandemic in mind when I chose my word, I have found it to be very appropriate to what is going on. It’s hard to find balance when you’re not supposed to leave your house or see people. This word has been a reminder to me that even though right now I’m working at home, I don’t have to work all the time. And that getting some rest, or even relaxing and not working on a project, is part of the balance of life, too.

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How do you find balance in these strange times we live in?

 

Make Do and Mend: Slippers Edition

There is so much going on in the world these days, and almost all of it seems out of my control. I find it easy to get sucked into a quagmire of negative thoughts and fear, so when I feel like this I try to find something I can do with my hands. My sewing or knitting or gardening is something I can control, and that helps me to feel a little better.

A year and a half ago I made myself some slippers. They were cozy and kept my feet warm. I wore them all that winter, and all this winter.

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And then a few weeks ago I realized both slippers were developing holes on the outside/bottom of the foot.

So I mended them.

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I started off with some non-superwash wool, some snips, and a darning needle.

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I cut a length of yarn, and sewed it in a regtangle-ish shape that went a little past the edges of the hole on all sides.

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Then I turned the whole thing 90 degrees and needle-wove the patch – over, under, over under. While doing this, I made sure to catch a stitch in the slipper at the end of every row so the patch would be firmly attached to the slipper on all sides.

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I followed the same steps on the 2nd slipper. This closed the holes on both slippers, but the yarn I used for the repair was very softly spun, and I knew I would have another hole soon if I didn’t put a tougher material on the outside.

I still had some of the leather I used when I originally made the slippers, so I made a template for a piece that would fit over the holes on both slippers, and cut the pieces out. When I made the slippers a year and a half ago I cut the leather with scissors and an X-acto knife. It was a PAIN! This time borrowed a chisel and mallet from my husband. What a difference! This was quick and easy and painless. Anytime I work with leather in the future, I will absolutely use a chisel and mallet!

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After cutting the pieces out I stabbed some sewing holes into them at regular intervals. Most people would use a proper awl for this. I don’t have one, so I appropriated another one of my husband’s tools for this purpose (I think this is some sort of electrical tool?). Pro tip: it helps to have a spouse that is handy! (Also, if you are borrowing tools, make sure you ask first!)

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With my pieces cut out and holes stabbed, I sewed the leather pieces into place. When I made the slippers I sewed the leather on with nylon cord, which was a royal pain. This time I used a doubled strand of upholstery thread. Much easier to work with, and almost as durable.

And here the slippers are, good as new, and ready for another winter.

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hoMEOWner

On December 30, 2019 my husband and I bought a house!

But that’s not when the story started. Right after I got home from my trip to Manila last summer we started looking at houses. We trolled the internet and drove all over. We finally decided we wanted to build a house, so we found a nice neighborhood that was being developed, signed the papers, and scheduled our appointment to choose the finishes we wanted.

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Then the wait began. After a month of nothing (while the architect finalized the drawings) our foundation was poured!

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From there the house progressed quite quickly. Within a few days of the foundation being poured, the walls went vertical, and things started falling into place.

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At times it seemed like nothing was being done, and at other times progress was much quicker than expected. But finally the day came when we signed the papers and got the keys.

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There are so many things I love about my house, but my favourites are the kitchen, my craft room, and my tiny backyard garden.

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We went a little overboard on the kitchen, but it was absolutely the right decision since we both enjoy cooking.

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My craft room is largely unfurnished right now, but it’s so lovely to have a space where I can leave things out and not worry about my husband stepping on pins in the middle of the night.

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I have been dreaming about creating a garden for at least a year now. My husband helped me build a raised bed for a vegetable garden. I am also thinking about digging up the bushes in my front bed and replacing them with roses and all sorts of bulbed flowers.

I feel so fortunate to live in a beautiful house and a beautiful neighborhood. Owning a home is something my husband and I have been working toward for a very long time.

I love my house.

Thanksgiving Roadtrip – 2019

I haven’t been with my family for Thanksgiving for over 10 years. Most of the family lives in sunny Arizona, while I’m in South Carolina. That’s a big trip, especially at the holidays. This year I started planning early, and I planned big. I let all my siblings know I was coming and I hoped that we could all be together at Thanksgiving. I talked dates with my husband, and we both requested time off from work. We planned and packed, and finally the day came: time to leave for 2 whole weeks with my family!

Day 1: Travel

We got up at the crack of dawn and drove 18 hours our first day. It was exhausting, but worth it. We hit 8 states that day, and spent the night in Amarillo, Texas. I brought a sweater with me as travel knitting. 

South Carolina

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Georgia

Alabama

Mississippi (where I did a little sweater surgery)

Tennessee

Arkansas

Oklahoma

Texas

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Day 2: Travel

On day 2 we spent about 10 hours on the road. We were wiped out from the previous day, so we stayed the night in Flagstaff, Arizona. As we went further and further west we started seeing red rock and cacti. It felt like home.

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New Mexico

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Day 3: Travel + Family Time

We drove the 2 hours from Flagstaff to Phoenix, and spent the rest of the day resting and enjoying being with my family.

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My sister drew this picture of me as a Lord of the Rings character. We’re all nerdy and artistic in this family!

Days 4-5: Family Time

We laughed a lot and made Christmas cookies. We were also able to spend some time with friends. My husband made us all eggnog (pro tip: homemade eggnog is way better than store bought).

Day 6: Thanksgiving Day

We made even more cookies, and cooked Thanksgiving dinner as a family. We decorated my mom’s house with Christmas lights. All my siblings and even some adopted siblings were able to make it. This was such a pleasant, homey day. It was everything I wanted it to be.

Day 7: Travel

My grandma lives in California, so we headed over to see her, as well as my aunt, uncle, and cousins.

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California

Day 8: Sightseeing

My husband and I went to the San Diego Zoo, then watched the sunset at the beach. 10/10, would recommend!

Day 9: Family Time + Thanksgiving 2.0

We spent the morning with my grandma, then had a second Thanksgiving dinner with the California branch of the family. This was the first time my husband got to meet this side of the family.

I had brought my sourdough starter to make bread for the family, and expose it to some different yeasts/conditions, and this is the day I made sourdough bread (for the record, I don’t think my sourdough bread tastes any different now that I’m home).

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Day 10: Travel

Back to Phoenix for one last day with my family.

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Day 11: Family Time + Packing

Getting ready to leave is always bittersweet.

Day 12: Travel

No matter where you’ve been or who you’ve been with, there’s something satisfying about heading home.

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New Mexico

Texas

Oklahoma (it was dark and we were tired)

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Day 13: Travel

Home again, home again, jiggedy jog.

Oklahoma

Arkansas

Tennessee

Mississippi

Alabama

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Georgia

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South Carolina

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This was the best Thanksgiving I can remember. Thanksgiving is a hard time of year for my family, and it was so good to make some truly spectacular memories of this holiday. I am so glad we went, and very thankful to my husband for driving us 5,000 miles/60 hours across the country (I tried to drive, but he wouldn’t let me).

2019 Roadtrip

Summer Travels

What a summer it has been! I have so much to tell you, so I’ll start with the biggest thing: I went to Manila! I work with a company that has offices in several places in the world, and most of my department happens to be in Manila in the Philippines. Over the last year and a half that I’ve worked in this department I’ve been emailing, messaging, and calling my team, but there is nothing quite like meeting someone in person. I feel so lucky to have been able to travel for work. I never thought I would be a jet-setting world traveler, but I suppose I’ve had a taste of that now.

My trip was 2 weeks long in the beginning of June. I packed 2 knitting projects and some spinning for good measure, but I barely touched my projects at all while I was away. Let’s dive right in with all the pictures!

The flight from the US to Manila is no joke. I had 3 flights, the longest of which was 14 hours. The total travel time including layovers was about 24 hours, so by the time I landed I was beyond exhausted. But my day wasn’t over yet. I knew if I went to sleep immediately my internal clock would be messed up all week, so I pulled myself together and went into the office long enough to say hi to everyone.

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The next few days were a blur of work and meeting new people. I ate a lot of good food every single day. If you are ever hungry in Manila, that is totally your fault because the food there is awesome!! Or as they say in Tagalog, “Masarap!”

The Philippines is on the other side of the world from the US, so our night is their day. In order to work smoothly with the US offices, the Manila office is most active at night. Working night shift long term would be a big change, but it was quite convenient not to have to change my day to day schedule. Over the weekend we had a team building activity planned during the day, so we had to switch over to day shift. This was difficult, to say the least, but it enabled me to go out and see a little of Manila.

We went all over: The Manila Hotel where the President of the Philippines holds special events, the oldest church in Manila, the National musums… And friends, I found YARN!

We got food (of course), and rode a Calesa, which is a kind of horse-drawn buggy.

The next day was our team building. We learned a lot and had a lot of fun. Pro tip: Filipinos love Karaoke, so if you’re traveling over there brush up on your singing!

The next day (Monday, if you’re keeping track) was time to transition back to night shift. But, this was my best option to go shopping while I was in Manila. A few of my friends took me to the mall to buy ALL THE THINGS.

I tried something called Kwek-kwek, which is hard-boiled quail eggs that are then battered and fried. Delicious, and very fatty.

The 2nd week was similar to the first, and before I knew it the time had come to leave for the airport. But wait, the team couldn’t let me live without a party!

I had such a wonderful time getting to meet my team and form personal friendships with them. I can’t wait to go back and see my friends again!

SAFF 2018: Part 2, The Haul (and Sheep)

It’s been a while since SAFF, but I bought too many beautiful things to not show them to you.

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The Tools:

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I have been wanting a Turkish spindle for a while, so I bought this beautiful beech spindle. Her name is Tigris (like the river, which I learned has roots in Turkey). Also, I bought a pair of Schacht curved-back hand carders (112 TPI). I’m learning to spin woolen rather than worsted, but it’s so much easier to find combed top than woolen preparations like rolags and batts. With these carders I can convert top to a woolen preparation so I have more spinning options.

The Yarn:

I only bought 1 skein of yarn this year (I know, who am I??), but it’s so beautiful! This picture doesn’t really show the soft rose colour off properly.

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The Fiber:

Since I took a spinning class at SAFF I went a little fiber crazy. Abby was so inspiring and she made me want to spin all the things RIGHT NOW! I bought a lot of combed top, since worsted spinning is my default method and I have the tools to change a worsted preparation to a woolen preparation now. This silver/grey fiber at the top is a yak/silk blend, and the plain white at the bottom is a BFL/silk blend. I’m completely in love with BFL – it’s such a lovely fiber to spin!

I did buy 1 beautiful batt, and my first locks! I have no idea what to do with locks, but they were rainbow dyed and I couldn’t resist.

I also bought my first cotton, and I’ve been having a fabulous time learning to spin it (tip: cotton makes it so easy to spin a superfine long-draw single!).

SAFF is not just about shopping and classes, though. There are also all sorts of fiber animals to see and pet.

So if you have a chance to go to a fiber featival, especially if it’s SAFF, go!! You won’t regret it.

My First Renaissance Festival!

I have wanted to go to a Renaissance festival since I first heard about them as a teenager. Alas, growing up in Arizona I didn’t come across many. However, now that I’ve moved to the SouthEast, I have more options (also being an adult with a car and spending money helps). A few weeks ago my Sister-in-Law invited me to go to the Renaissance Festival with her. I had already been playing with the idea of making a Medieval dress for Halloween, so a few days after we finalized our plans I finally caved in and bought fabric.

The fabric I used was a deep red Polyester knit velvet – not what they used in the time, but comfortable and it looked good. I used the Alabama Chanin Long-sleeved T-shirt as a base pattern for the bodice and angled my skirt pieces out to the edge of my fabric. I used the remaining triangular pieces as gores to widen my skirt. Pinning took ages, and then I used a simple running stitch to sew all my seams. In a perfect world I would have also felled the seams, but I was sewing the dress completely by hand and running out of time. Miraculously I found a perfectly matching trim for the neck and sleeves. Even though the trim is woven and the dress is knit, the edges lay pretty well. The hem took me ages. I folded it under about 4 inches and just basted it down to the inside. Maybe someday I’ll go back and finish the hem properly, but the important thing is that the dress was done on time and I wasn’t tripping over it all day (although I did end up ticking the train into my belt so other people wouldn’t be tripping on me all day). The final piece was braiding a wire circlet and borrowing a leather belt to complete the look. My SiL and I had a fabulous time and I felt so pretty (and comfortable!) in my costume!

 

Kumi-what-oh?

I somehow managed not to tell you about my exploration into Kumihimo braiding! In February I decided to try something new, and that something was Kumihimo. I looked it up and watched some videos and then I bought some beads and a Kumihimo disc and tried it out.

I wanted to start with black beads, fade into peach, and then fade back into black, so I did some math and wrote down the order I needed to string my beads on. The round Kumihimo I was making had 8 strands, so lines 5-8 were a copy of lines 1-4. In order to keep the very long strings under control you wind each strand around a bobbin. I didn’t want to make a huge investment in this craft since I didn’t even know if I would like it, so I cut out a few pieces of cardboard and used them as bobbins. They tangled a little, but worked very well for the most part.

In the end I had a very lovely necklace. I had bought some clasps, but didn’t want to bother gluing them on, so I tied the ends into a square knot and wrapped the knot with wire. Easy and effective.

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I would definitely recommend trying Kumihimo braiding. It takes a good bit of time to make something like this necklace, but it’s easy to learn, the materials can be as costly as you want them to be, and the finished products are striking!

Slowly

Do you remember when you were a kid and life seemed to go by so slowly? A single day lasted forever, let alone the length of time until it was until Christmas or your birthday. Lately life seems to be going so, so fast and just speeding up every minute. I’ve been in desperate need of something to slow me down. Crafting does just that.

I started spinning some superwash BFL quite a while ago – long enough that I forgot about it. I never thought I would be the kind of person who would forget about a project. I finished spinning the singles, and decided this yarn needed some beads.

It turns out that if you add scads of beads to a yarn, it takes a lot of effort to slide them all down the yarn as you ply. The tension and abrasion from this broke my single, so I took most of the beads off, and I’m periodically adding more to the yarn in more manageable amounts. Won’t the finished yarn be gorgeous, though? I’m thinking of using it for a shawl.

I have shawls on the brain right now, and beads, it would seem. I’m reading through the Knitter’s Almanac again, and have come to the conclusion that I desperately need a Pi Shawl. A little search through the stash, and I came up with my Rumpelstiltskin yarn that I finished last year. I love this yarn so much. It’s recycled sari silk with beads every few inches. The drape of this yarn is incredible! Every time I see it I can’t help but think of a pile of treasure!

So that’s me, slowing down. I have a kitchen to clean and laundry to do, but yarn is just so much more interesting!

Pattern Testers Needed!

Hey friends! One pattern has just been published, so that means it’s time to get the next into testing. My next pattern is quite different from normal for me, in that it is a crochet pattern. It all started on my vacation last October, when my husband’s grandma taught me how to crochet broomstick lace. I got an idea at that time, and now I’ve made it a reality: I made a Broomstick Lace Shawl!

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The beauty of this shawl is that it can be made any size, and with any weight yarn, so the possibilities really are endless. Mine is a shawlette, made with a skein of Miss Babs Yowza (Worsted, 560 yds/ 512 m).

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I’m looking for 6 pattern testers – 2 each to make a shawl in fingering, Sport or DK, and Worsted weight yarns. If you’re interested, all the details are here.

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Also, I need a name for this beauty. “Broomstick Lace Shawl” is descriptive, but not very evocative. What would you name this shawl? Leave a comment and include your Ravelry name. The person who comments with the best name will receive a free copy of my Ribless Hat as thanks.