Hobbies & Happiness, Uncharted

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I haven’t posted here in a while. I hate the fact that months go by between posts. Why? I’ve felt like there has not been anything worth sharing. Except I never wanted this blog to ever be only a place to brag and share the best of my work, rather, a place to chat and share how I fit my favorite arts into everyday life. The truth is, I haven’t been fitting those arts in my life the way I wanted. Between work and school, time is short, but more truthfully, my motivation ran out.

I didn’t want to knit or sew just anything—I wanted to create. To design, to express my own taste and exercise my skills and learn new things. While giving 100% at school (in a major that relies on design and creation) and 100% at work (the retail environment and all that implies) while struggling with constant pain and inflammation in my joints, I feel mentally and physically drained. My friendships suffer for lack of nurturing, my spiritual life slogs for lack of time to reflect. On my few days free of work or class all I want to do is stay home and sleep, and when I do, I wind up teary and bitter at nighttime because I wasted the day. Failing an assignment because I completely forgot about it, getting to work late in the morning because I overslept from closing the store the night before, and shaking loose change bottom of my purse to buy coffee the day before payday (only to come up 10 cents short) are enough to send me over the angry edge. Why do I feel like I do nothing but work of both school and job variety and still often fail at both? Why do I feel so unproductive when all I do is work?

That said, I feel like I’m overreacting a lot of the time. My overall grades ramain above 90% in every class, despite an occassional mis, with teachers who encourage and enable me to succeed (even when I waste huge amounts of expensive paper printing patterns that I didn’t size properly.) I have enough money to buy schoolbooks, art supplies, and a cute Modcloth winter coat. I work with kind, supportive people. Getting everything done on time requires huge amounts of planning, list making, and reminders, and if those are not in place, I feel my anxiety go through the roof.

I think a large amount of why I feel so down and overwhelmed is because my brain and my hands crave time to make things. Not objects to be judged or graded, but to be made for the sake of doing something on my own terms. I miss knitting so much because it allows me to be both productive and resting at the same time. Designing the projects, taking something from thought to reality is both fulfilling and nuturing for my mind. I’ve learned when time and energy are short, I need to step back and just make without the mental exercise of complex design. While I love cables, lace, and fair isle, their intricacies are not what I need right now. So I crocheted (a skill in which I’m not totally fluent) a chunky cement-colored blanket, almost completely while watching TV or movies (Person of Interest—watch it, please and thank you.) It’s not really pretty, but it’s warm and made me happy to work on in the past few months, just to have something to work on that doesn’t have to be perfect.

I recently began an infinity scarf with some Berroco Vintage that’s been sitting in my stash for 2 years…and I have almost no plan for the design. Sailing uncharted (knitting pun intended.) I know how big it will be, and that it’s going to have 2 x 2 ribbed boarders on the edges, but the main part hasn’t been planned. Simple knitting is what keeps us warm and cozy when it’s cold outside, and it’s what keeps me from quitting school and moving to Norway to study fair isle and cheese making sane right now.

What’s the point of all this? Not entirely sure because I’m pretty tired. But I’d say it’s to not let everything else get in the way of doing little things that brings you joy. The world won’t end if you take an hour to work on a project that has no deadline. That you should take up a hobby because work and school and outside responsibilities shouldn’t take total control of your life. That you might get more peace out of your day by baking a loaf of bread or knitting a mitten than reading comments about the Starbucks red cup non-existent debate (raise your hand if you got unfriended for saying this is the least offensive thing the company has ever done *raises hand*) At the very least, you’ve got homemade bread to eat while scrolling.

Knit Picks Caspian Needles

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Note: not a paid advertisement, and I am in no way affiliated with Knit Picks. I just love this product. I feel like sometimes knitting needles get left out in the cold when it comes to knitting supply love. Yarn gets all the attention. True, if one was desperate (and gauge was unimportant), one could theoretically knit on twigs, pencils, heck even on your fingers or arms (there are YouTube videos on this topic if you’re curious.) The thing is, needles are literally the foundation of everything you knit. Having good ones means more energy focused on the task and not fighting with the tools.

I learned to knit on wooden needles, grateful for their warm grip and light weight. Wanting to save money as I grew my collection of needle sizes, I switched to Susan Bates metal needles– slick and cold, but once I got the hang of using them, much faster than the “sticky” wood or bamboo. Slickness is wonderful for speed knitting, until you begin working with fine gauged yarns, and batting lace weight and fingering weight on steel is frustrating. That’s where Knit Picks Harmony needles come in. Smooth and light, just grippy enough but still sleek and not sticky, these polished wood needles are the perfect pick for fine-gauge patterns. The newest addition to KP’s needle family, Caspian, arrived in my mailbox a few weeks ago, proving needles can be useful and visually stunning.

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The wood is stained in a gorgeous blue-green pattern, with varying oceanic shades dipping and swirling in the polished wood. I purchased a pack of size US 2 DPNs in the 6″ length for my first foray into sock knitting (more on that in an upcoming post.) I previously used the Rainbow Harmony wood circulars, and they’re among the most frequently used needles in my collection.

At $6.49, the needles are reasonably priced, particularly considering the fact that smaller needle sizes are not typically sold at craft stores (this is a problem when your wonderful sweet glorious LYS is a monumental pain to get to involving limited hours, no nearby parking and serious temptation to spend lots of money because you did you take the trouble to get there.) I also love the fact that you get 6 needles as opposed to the more prevalent packs of 4 or 5. The tips have a very gradual taper with a decently “sharp” tip for picking up stitches.

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As far as faults go, I’ve heard complaints from other knitters about wooden needles having a tendency to break (not specifically about KP needles, but wood needles in general) though I’ve never experienced this. I do take care not to bend them, leave them on the floor, store them in a purse,  or any other potential snapping situation.

In the end, even though I love all the great qualities Caspian needles have, I’m a sucker for beauty in functional things. I love the fact that the name is the same as that of a particular seafaring Narnian prince. I like the way wood, as a natural element, combines with the natural wool and cotton yarns. Most of all? I love the colors, and sometimes that’s enough.

 

Upcoming Projects + A Friendly Chat

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Hello, readers! Yes it’s been a while. I’ve been ill and behind on classes, chugging coffee and cold meds to get through the day (not at the same time, mind you.) I’m working on not one, not two, but 4 projects to be blogged about in the upcoming weeks, with 2 free patterns, a project journal, and a product review in the mix. In the mean time, a seemingly random but friendly chatter list of things I’ve been working on/liking/want to talk about because I’m socially deprived in this doggone polar vortex.

-At the top of this post is a sneak preview photo of one of my upcoming free patterns. It promises a vibrant splash of color and fingering weight wool to keep the frigid air out of your coat collar.

-Did you watch Sherlock on PBS last night/last week? Are you still obsessing over what REALLY happened at The Reichenbach Fall, even though supposedly Sherlock told Anderson the truth? Are you still swooning over the Sherlolly kiss that was, but wasn’t? Do you ship Sherlolly the way some people root for their favorite NFL team? *raises hand.*Do you assume every random character is the murderer just so you can feel smart when the villain is revealed only to STILL not get it? Did you laugh/cringe/cry when Sherlock gave his best man’s speech?  *deep breath before continuing*  Are you, like me, totally convinced Mary is doomed? Did you Google Mary and John’s wedding venue and figure out how much in US dollars it would cost to have your hypothetical wedding there?  Are you crying in despair because you realized the season is now more than halfway over? The answer to the second-to-last question, by the way, is $2,154.36 for a reception in Goldney Hall’s Orangery, where the episode was filmed. If commenting, remember, if you’ve seen all of season 3, DO NOT SPOIL the last episode for me and everyone who hasn’t seen it. Thank you for your cooperation.

-Something I’ve been wondering: does it bother you if your gloves/hat/mittens/scarf don’t all match? I know it might seem odd to make them all matchy-matchy, but lately having lavender mittens, a red hat, and a cream colored scarf has been bugging me. I think at least harmonious and similarly hued colors are necessary.

-All this indoor dwelling has been good for cooking experiments. A recent tango with the Smitten Kitchen’s dulce de leche was one delicious odyssey. It’s miraculously easy to make, doesn’t burn onto the bottom of your saucepan, and it doesn’t stick to your teeth the way caramel does. Proceed to drizzle it over a banana with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a sprinkling of toasted pecans.  Bonus points if you eat this while watching Sherlock.

-Going on 42 days since Christmas gift of Palette fingering weight wool, and I’m not tired of fair isle yet. Hence the bounty of posts related to fair isle and fair isle related yarns. Thank you for your patience.

-The Irish band Celtic Thunder is amazing. Those guys can sing like nobody’s business. Their concert DVDs are ridiculously good, as are their CDs. The songs the group sing together have great harmony, but the solo pieces by individual band members are really stand-outs (YouTube their versions of Friends in Low Places, Tears of Hercules, All Out of Love, Place in the ChoirSeven Drunken Nights, and  My Land.) Some of the best sing-along songs around.