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An update

I just looked at my last post and am a bit horrified about the amount of time that has passed since I last wrote.  So many things have happened.  I have travelled to one side of the continent and then the other (Halifax and Vancouver).  I went to Kansas and Manitoba (Kansas is very far from Saskatchewan when you are driving, Manitoba not so much). I had job interviews and a job resignation.  I have found a new place to live in a different city, and a new job.

We will be moving to Vancouver next week and starting a new job the week after, so I guess what has been happening instead of blog writing is life.

We have started packing, and it of course gives a different perspective.  I am smitten with the way my plain bookcase looks with no books on it.  I would like to keep it like that, except that then I am not sure what I would do with my books.

We are also appalled yet again at how much stuff we have accumulated — where does it come from? And why do we keep doing it? Did we agree to having to deal with so much detritus?

Since I don’t have any knitting deadlines, I have been spending some time doing other projects that I have been thinking about for a while.  Here is a tea towel I hemmed last weekend:

My Granny gave the linen toweling to me years ago.  I hemmed all the blue cloth then, but I still had this bit of brown and pink left over.  I don’t have any of the blue ones anymore — I used them up completely.

I think I will keep this one nice and use it as a runner for a while.  I like the crispness that is ruined by the dryer.

I have spent time over the last few months thinking about my knitting design, and I am just not sure I want to do this anymore.  I have a job, and I want to have a life outside work, and knitting has begun to feel like more work to me.

There is so much support required for patterns, and I never wanted knitting to be a social activity — let’s just say that I do not belong to a knitting circle.  I also just don’t make enough money to pay anything like the time I put in.  It was my “lonely impulse of delight,”  and I want that back.  I want to be able to fart around with fibre and embroider and crochet and knit and even quilt if the mood strikes me (and this certainly makes me want to give it a try).

I am in the process of clearing out the clutter and pulled a bunch of things out of my bedroom to get rid of yesterday — this is one more thing.

So I will likely not be publishing anymore patterns in the near future, but I do (as I try to always do) reserve the right to change my mind, if I have more time or a particularly entertaining idea.  However, I do plan to continue playing with fibre and blogging, so this page may all start to get a lot more interesting, so I would like to invite you to stick around to see how it turns out.

Thank you all for reading so far.

I finished my second unfinished project this week.  That means that I can start a new project with complete impunity at any time.  Of course I could have started a new project any time before finishing two projects, but this year I decided to finish two projects for every one I start.  I guess it is silly to talk about a New Year’s resolution like a wish coming true, but some times it feels that way.

I guess one just has to grab the bull by the horns, take responsibility for one’s own fate, and all that. I confess I have decided not to make any important New Year’s resolutions, because I think that if I think something is really sufficiently important to do, then I should just do it.  It seems like a capitulation of some kind to treat change as something that requires a special day, but for my hobby I think it is a perfect time to give in to tradition and have a resolution instead of being so puritanical.

I finished the sweater in the previous post and in so doing have freed a wonderful amount of knitting paraphernalia, including stitch holders (I haven’t had access to real stitch holders since 2008, and I can tell you that waste yarn works almost as well in most ways and in some ways is actually better) and 6.5mm knitting needles (date since last access also 2008).

Saying this makes me wonder if I ever needed or will need them at all, because if I didn’t use them in two years, will I ever really need them?

This is definately the road down which asceticism of some kind lies, and I don’t want to get carried away, but I am trying to keep getting rid of things until I only have things I think beautiful or know to be useful — that is surely a more elegant way of putting it than most of the de-cluttering show hosts use (this is a very loose quotation from William Morris).

Right now my very favourite joke is to look out side and say: “It looks like winter wonderland!”

And you know something? I does — for months on end — enough winter wonderland for practically everyone — enough to share with a great many people and enough that it goes on long enough there is very little chance of missing it.

I would like to wish everyone a happy new year and let you know that I have started another project — Bounded in a Nutshell: I plan to talk about my culinary adventures and my exploration of what I really like to eat.  I have decided to become good at cooking.  I know how to cook to some extent now, but I want to be good enough that it becomes an expression.  That may sounds pretentious and for that I apologize, but that is what I want.  I will continue blogging here too, so please stick around.

I know I decided not to start a cooking blog, but I reserve the right to change my mind as I am frequently wrong.  I tell myself that this is okay as long as long as I am not too wedded to my opinions.

I have been working on a crochet pattern and my mittens over the holidays and will have some pictures soon — I am so looking forward to wearing them.

As I am not sure how good it would be for us to actually implement all the things we say we want to achieve, I hope that you all are able to implement your new year’s resolutions proportionately to how good it would actually be for you to achieve them.

What to perfect?

I am not sufficiently disciplined to not want to start something when I decide to stop doing other things.  As not starting something when you stop doing something would just be silly, and much too disciplined for me.  I have stopped selling on Etsy, reading any number of blogs, checking my email too many times a day, watching too much TV, and other things that escape me at the moment.

The corresponding thing I will start doing (again) is knitting others’ patterns.  I am somewhat happy with where my design is, but I feel that if I want to take it to the next level I will need to start knitting others’ patterns.  I have never found classes or discussion to be effective ways for me to learn knitting (I learned almost entirely from books): the only way I have ever really learned anything is from knitting it myself.

I was inspired by this article about Tiger Woods last week.  I want to live in that pursuit of excellence, and have the courage to cut out anything that is not perfection.

I have also started cooking more and as proof — my shopping list of last week:

shoppinglist

I almost think I should start a cooking blog — that may be taking things too far by the time I finished making anything the light would be gone and I couldn’t take good pictures of it.

My midwinter feast of choice is Christmas, and I started decorating yesterday — I have almost completely dropped the ball and haven’t bought a present or written a card, though I did go grocery shopping, so it’s not a complete wash.

I did however pull out the Christmas decorations and decorate a house plant for a tree (it’s my new Norfolk pine):

christmas2009-1

There was a  bit of a snow storm yesterday:

christmas2009-3

Yes, that is snow almost halfway up my window — it’s quite charming today, but I am a little concerned that it will stay there all winter.  We are on the second floor, so surely it will blow off or fall off on someone’s head in a big clump.  If having a bird leave, um — droppings — shall we say, on your shoulder is lucky, them a big pile of snow on your head must be too.

And please remember, when you bite into that gingerbread cookie, that symbolic human sacrifice is an important part of the tradition.

christmas2009-2

Have a wonderful celebration of light coming back into the world.

Merry Christmas!

I was doing some professional reading today and came across this article. The salient question that started the subject of the article to start this process of stopping doing things is “Imagine that you’ve just inherited $20 million free and clear, but you only have ten years to live. What would you do differently—and specifically, what would you stop doing?

I think I need a stop-doing strategy.  There are so many things I have spent so much time doing — there are of course the usual suspects: surfing the Internet in general and Ravelry in particular and watching TV, but there are also other things that just sap my energy and don’t fit into what I really want to accomplish.

After reading about being a professional crafter on Etsy yesterday (see post here), I realized anew that though superficially it looks lovely, and I feel a fair amount of jealousy towards people who are successful, it just isn’t for me.  I don’t want to do that even if I had the time to do it well, which I don’t — it just ends up being hokey, and I hate hokeyness.

This has led me to the decision to pull all my listings from Etsy — and it’s done.

Partly I just don’t like having to mail stuff then getting blamed when it gets stuck in customs.

I wonder what else I should stop doing.  Any suggestions? What do you want to stop doing?

I just saw this article in the New York Times.  It discusses some of the things that I have thought for some time — to put it simply, making a living on Etsy looks hard.  I would probably focus on pattern design as opposed to production work anyway, as that is more satisfying for me personally, and I am not really one for wanting to make the same thing twice, never mind more than that.

If I were unemployed, I would probably try to make a go of my knitting/design career, but I can’t see myself quitting my job to do it full time any time soon — partly because I like it too.

I greatly respect those who do it, and so many people are making such beautiful things, but it really looks hard.  My hat off to all of those who do it.

Addendum: There is also discussion about this at one of my favourite blogs, Poppytalk.  See here.

Today I have been sitting inside and not going out.  This is part of the reason why:

snowday

There is a windchill warning, and I just don’t feel like it (it is -27 centigrade and feels like -40 — I don’t need to look up what that is in Fahrenheit as that is almost where they are the same).  I am not sure that anywhere in the city is better than right here:

snowday-1

I made myself a nice pot of soup for lunch and continued working on a project with an upcoming deadline, which is the other reason I am not going out.  I am still working on it for several reasons, among them that I started these:

redmittens

They are Mari Muinonen’s Yellow Harvest Mittens from Vogue Knitting, Fall 2008, except of course that mine are red  (Hmm, I just noticed there are errata, I wonder if they will affect me yet).

I can’t wait to really get on them when I am done the sweater this weekend.

I really should make myself finish two projects for every one I finish for a while.  The number of unfinished projects is getting a little out of hand.  I don’t propose to be someone who only knits one thing at a time — for me attempting that would just be silly, but maybe five current projects would be feasible.  Now I will just say that I really don’t know how many I am “working on”.

We were out doing a last minute photo shoot today in the sun:

snow-in-november

It was so lovely.  It snowed a little last night, but it wasn’t cold, which is good as I am unsure of the attractiveness of a very red nose and how it will ever induce anyone to knit a sweater.

A couple little girls walked by, and they were very interested in what we were doing.  One of them says to me: “I want to be a model — are you a model?” To which I didn’t have an immediate response — I guess I am, as I model my own designs, it would be a bit different if I were paid to do it, but as it is no one can tell me I can’t.

They told us that designing sweaters is cool, and they would be happy to buy the one I was wearing.  Apparently they thought the lovely Jonathan was proposing, instead of taking my picture, which would have been more exciting than having my picture taken and require much less standing on boggy ground.  Not that I want to imply that having a sweater in Knitty isn’t very exciting indeed.

Having been married and published in Knitty, it is difficult to say which was more exciting the first time — being divorced, I can say that I think getting published in Knitty was.

That isn’t good: I guess I will have to fall back on many more people being married than being published in Knitty and leave it at that.

I have registered for a spinning course as part of my efforts to become part of the community here, which has inspired me to finish the following skein which I have been “working”* on for several months:

redyarn-1

After the course started, I immediately had to start travelling for my job, which is impinging on my spinning time dreadfully.

I need to wash/set it first, but I think I will count the yardage.  Maybe I have enough for an eccentric hat.  The knitting of said hat will be simple, it will only be eccentric because anything made out of this yarn, when worn on one’s head, must be considered eccentric — it’s the nature of the beast.

redyarn-2

*Had sitting idle on my wheel

External forces

I started my new job today.  My alarm went off at 6:15, to make sure I would get to work on time.  I got up made myself a lovely breakfast of slow cooking oatmeal with dates and almonds, got dressed in record time, got out the door with time to spare, and then about half way there, as we were coming up to the train tracks that I didn’t even know were there, the lights started flashing.

Yes a train made me late for my first day of my new job.  It was positively farcical — the train traveled up the tracks, then backed up a bit, then another train came up beside it, then the first train moved forward and back again.  Finally twenty minutes later the road was clear, and I could finally get to work.

I am glad I had a bit of time off, because if that had happened a few weeks ago I would have been ready to jump out of my skin.

Of course one hears a great deal about drinking and driving and how it is a very bad thing, but I have got other things quite wrong while tipsy as well.

A few weeks ago I was in Vancouver and having a glorious time — though I did do something quite painful to my foot then have to stand around for several hours in high heels at my sister’s wedding, which made it swell up and change colour quite impressively.

The first night there I went out for dinner and shopping with a friend.  We went to Zeffirelli’s on Robson street, which is lovely as the food is good and not too expensive and the windows all open across one side, and you can look out into the trees.  In case you were wondering I did not notice any particular problem with birds or bugs coming in.

We ate our pasta and slurped our wine and then we went shopping, and I am somewhat ashamed to admit it, but I actually bought an acrylic sweater.  It was just so pretty and exactly what I wanted, except it was acrylic and I thought it would be no big deal, but in the morning I felt like I had sucked a lemon.  I have to say that I didn’t return it though because it was just so cute and the decision was already made, but I really don’t think I would have done it without the expansiveness of the wine helping out.  I guess it is a little like going grocery shopping hungry.

A couple of months ago, again in Vancouver, I went out with my sister, again for Italian food — I love Italian food, and again had wine with (and before) dinner.  It just took so long for them to seat us and the nice servering staff kept coming to the waiting area and taking drink orders.  Then when we left I paid and then when I woke up in the morning I realixed that I had left a 40% tip (on a fairly substantial bill), apparently because I can’t be trusted to do math while drinking either.

The funny thing is that I was not particularly drunk on either occasion, I guess there is a not very deeply buried part of me that likes to buy acrylic sweaters just because they are really cute and tip extravagantly (or else someone who is just bad at math).  I wonder if that part is more fun than the rest of me. . .

So much has happened since I last wrote.  My sister is married, but not living with the man she is married to, and I am living with a man I am not married to — everything is as it should be more or less (my sister would be quite happy to live with the man she is married to, but I am happy to be living with the man I am not married to).

I got to a bride’s maid for the first time. Which of course means being primped:

hairdo

You can’t tell, but I have a nice cup of coffee in my hands, so it is all good.

I have moved to the thriving metropolis of Regina.  We are very happy with our new apartment and are still putting everything together.  Due to not being in the province the week before we moved (see previous paragraph), we paid movers to pack for us.  This led to us paying to move an empty Snapple bottle and other random objects of no continuing value.

Finally, I have decided to change — what better time for new years type resolutions than moving to another city.  I am quite suspicious of trying to accomplish anything great that you start at the beginning of January — I prefer September and my birthday overall, but surely a new city gives you the potential for a whole new start.  If it doesn’t make you feel too tired or exasperated at my lack of initiative (it really could go either way), here is a shortened list of new initiatives:

I have started running.

I have started outsourcing my knitting when I don’t have time to knit all my samples.

I have decided to keep the place cleaner (what else am I doing with my time anyway? — well aside from knitting, please see previous item).

I have decided to stop getting so worked up about work — it’s just a job after all.

I have started knitting a pair of socks (yes, socks — it’s a red letter change).

I have decided to many other things besides, some of which I can’t recall and some of which I don’t care to share.

I will leave you with a glipse of the brilliance that is my sock:

sock-1

Surely only good things will come of this.

Update

Yesterday was my last day at my job — it is absolutely terrifying to quit the best job you ever had, but now I am kind of enjoying the reversion to my earlier state of looking forward to the next new thing.

I have had a wonderful time in my last days of work — it was like the pope died.  There were more or less three days of festivities with everyone making a fuss over me.  Other people, when they leave, request that nothing happen, I instead said everyone could do whatever they wanted, and they came up with the three days of making a fuss.  That worked out perfectly, because I like it when people make a fuss, but it is awkward to request the fuss yourself.

Soon we will be moving to the fair city of Regina.  The house is, as my mother would say, a bit of a tip — I think we decided to get ready to move too soon, which encouraged us to take everything out of the cupboards and drawers and not put it back.

I tried to sell the dreaded knitting machine the problem is that I am just not that interested in production work, though the thought of being able to make breezy little cardigans that would easily fit under a coat in a few days has a wonderful amount of appeal.  No one however, seems the least inclined to buy it, so I think I will keep it and see if I can get it going.

We have a lovely place lined up in Regina — it has, wait for it . . . a bathtub.  It is good when you can take pleasure in the little things.  It also doesn’t have a yard and as anyone who is a longtime reader will know I am not much of a gardener, so overall an improvement in accomodation, and there are all new restaurants there, including a lovely Afghan one, which has us quite excited.

So basically my life has intruded into my knitting and I don’t have much to say on that front yet, but I promise I am getting there.

I apologize for ignoring you so badly for the last few days.  I am working on moving and other things.  A quick update:

I have a place to live, which is very exciting as Regina has a 0.7% vacancy rate.   It’s crazy.  Strangers come up to you if you are in a coffee shop looking at the classifieds and ask if you are looking for a place to live, then make a face when you say that you are.  It is a lovely place so we are happy.

I have 10 more days at my job.

I will be a bridesmaid in my sister’s wedding this month, and I haven’t tried on my dress yet — I bought it off the Internet.  I so sincerely hope it fits.

We have movers lined up.

My most recent major knitting project with a deadline has been completed and sent.

I need to go through everything and get rid of everything I don’t need as we will be charged by the pound.

I am feeling a bit overwhelmed, so I will likely continue to post sporatically for the next few weeks, but will be back on the horse in September — I promise.

Well it is official — I am no longer going to be laid off in the near future, I resigned instead.  I have a new (not knitting related) job, and I will be moving to Regina next month.  I feel so happy that the ambiguity is over, and I get to move to  a new city which I love (I love new cities in general not Regina yet[?]).

I am absolutely smitten with the Golden Willow already and can’t wait to check out Hip 2 Knit.

(Knitting content to return soon)

I have started to exert more efforts to rationalize my life.  One of the steps has been to hire a sample knitter — it really doesn’t get any better than this.  I keep telling people because I am pleased as punch with myself, but I think they all think I am cheating.

I just find that I end up knitting two of everything as the sample always needs to be in different yarn from the original.  I can’t produce more than I am now, but I have more ideas than I know what to do with.  In my head I am always about five projects ahead of the one I am knitting.

It is wonderfully freeing, but I had the hardest time passing over the yarn for the first project.  It takes a big leap of faith.

Overall I am tremendously proud of myself; I feel I am enriching the fibre economy by ploughing some money back in.

I missed my flight yesterday.

That’s right, I missed my flight.  I have never missed one before.  I was at my sister’s and all packed in perfect time to get to the airport in time to eat lunch at the airport before my 1:00 flight, and I checked to make sure I had the exact time right, and my flight was boarding in about 10 minutes because I was off by two hours.

I was so hysterical I couldn’t see the paper because my hands were shaking so hard.  I called the customer service line and of course got put on hold.

In the end I went to the airport and walked up to the ticket counter, and all I had to do was change my ticket.  They didn’t even charge me for the price difference, just a change fee — she said that I was the only person all day who didn’t try to blame anyone else at all, just myself.

There are so many things that are so terrifying in advance, but in reality you just deal with it and move on.

While away I bought a whole bunch of yarn, if you are in Vancouver go to Urban Yarns they are having an amazing sale.  I also got to pick up my jumbo flier kit for my spinning wheel — I would like to warn you that airport security looks twice at sealed boxes with unidentified hardware inside.  They do seem to let spinning wheel parts through though.  She asked: “Is there a screw driver in there?” and I had no idea (a few seconds later I learned there isn’t).

Something that always interests me is the riot of production of crafts that must have happened in the Victorian period.  We are used to seeing the Victorian period through the lens of movies, and it looks so wonderful, but I think that if actually confronted with real Victoriana that many of us would think it was not in the best of taste.

If you don’t believe me, please walk through an antique store and really look at what was in people’s houses.  The thing that comes to my mind is a red and dark wood upright couch and chair set in an antique store close to my house that is really and truly hideous.  Mass production takes some of the variety out of choice in what to have, and crafting puts it back — you can really make anything you want within the limits of your imagination, available supplies, and skill.  Some of the things people come up with may not be as well conceived as others.  Mass production is mediated through professional designers of various sorts.

There is of course no reason for anyone to go around being the crafting police and making people feel bad.  Everyone should get to make anything that makes them happy, but I think there is a reason that William Morris said “Have nothing in your house you don’t know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” — It’s because there were so many ugly things in people’s houses — like crochet/beer can hats.

There was such variety in crafting then — embroidery, knitting, crochet, hairpin lace, other laces or various ilks, sewing, rug hooking, patchwork, and many others that don’t immediately come to mind.  All  those women without jobs (though I would hazard that jobs overall may be somewhat overrated), all producing as much as un-idle hands could day in and day out.

Consider for a moment that the Victorian period saw the invention of artificial dyes, perhaps most notably mauve.  It is no wonder that people got a little over excited.

I have had one of the grouchiest weeks of my life.  Everything seemed so hard — I couldn’t even bake right:

piefiasco

Then I got so mad I left the kitchen like this for three days:

piefiasca

My love did not get his favourite coconut cream pie on his birthday this year, but he did a few days later.

Cookie crumb crust is easier.   Four birthdays together and I still can’t get the pie right on the first try.

Hopefully change is in the wind.

I recently received a question from a reader about the possibility of making money knitting.  She said that she wants to make money, but she can’t find anyone who who will fairly compensate her for her time and skill.  I think this is a wider concern and wanted to share some of my thoughts on the subject with all of you as well:

I think this is a universal problem. I have known weavers for years, and they have never achieved making minimum wage from their work. I don’t sell many finished objects because of this. I basically make things I want to make and sell those or let them sit there and look pretty.

I figure it fleshes out my Etsy listings and helps sell my patterns. When I used to work in a craft gift shop I found that you need big expensive things to sell the small things (for more of a discussion on this see this post). A lot of the things on Etsy that sell well are things like wrist warmers, which are very small and inexpensive.

It seems to me that many people who produce handmade or local made clothing try to simplify construction to keep costs down — no linings, no finished hems etc. That brings me to other items that seem to sell well — bulky, loosely knit or crocheted items that don’t take much time.

If you really want to pursue knitting as a professional activity I would suggest starting to find some clients to do some sample knitting for designers or publishers — I think they pay a bit better, though they do demand excellent results. You could also see about knitting for high end boutiques or something like that, but I think you will likely need to design your own patterns. I think some people do well that way. I think people can make livings as designers, but that depends on another set of skills.

Depending on your geographic location and many factors you could look into producing knitwear for movie costumes etc., but you might need to design your own patterns then too.  I also believe that people can be well paid for producing knitwear for couture and other high end design houses, but that too depends a great deal on geography (New York as opposed to Los Angeles) and the ability to translate design sketches into finished garments.

I heard or read somewhere that Lily Chin made money (a living?) during college crocheting snoods for the ballet market.  If I recall correctly, she made basically every snood being sold in the United States at the time.   If I am wrong, I will be disappointed, because I love that story.  I wish I had thought of making snoods (or something else) in class when I was in university — it’s brilliant.  Then maybe I could be the world’s fastest crocheter (probably not, but I can dream).

I don’t know that any of these options pay particularly well, but they are options you can explore, if any of these options work, I would very happy to have you let me know.

I must take a moment to recommend this book:

homemadelife

A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg of Orangette

It is so charming.  I have it out of the library — it is overdue and have finished reading it, but she had me at the stewed prunes and chocolate bread, and I can’t bear to return it.  This is juvenile I know, and fines are accumulating daily.

I have called the bookstore, and they have one on hold for me.  I just can’t go through life not cooking those recipes and reading her stories, and they have eight copies, so I don’t have to.

Unfortunately Molly is taking a break from her blog.  I am looking forward to new posts and reading the backfiles.

When I was in Ottawa I enjoyed the food very much, and I ate breakfast at the Moulin de Provence, which was by my hotel and enjoyed my daily latte and brioche.  I ogled, but did not sample, the dessert case:

bakery-1

I must say that Barak Obama seems to be doing a fine job as president from this side of the border, but I did doubt his judgment as he was there the week previously and only got cookies like this:

bakery-2

What was he thinking? I am not altogether sure they even look like food.

While I was there I also had a bit of a run in with food poisoning and didn’t feel like eating much, but I would like to nominate a new perfect food for when you have a stomach ache:

blueberries

Blueberries make everything a bit better.

I have spent a great deal of wasted emotional energy feeling bad about not finishing various projects. It made me feel so liberated when I sent off this sweater to Kristina Wong and when I finished this shawl.

In case any of you are interested in similar release (to the first example, not the second — that kind is up to you), I just came across this art project by Rachael Matthews. You can also sign up to finish other people’s projects — imagine the good feeling of releasing them from crafty purgatory.

Here is her statement:

Dear Knitter,

UFO Project Administration Service was the answer to a proposal I was asked to give for the Jerwood Contemporary Makers 2009 Exhibition. The exhibition will run from 10th June -19th July at the Jerwood Space in London and will then tour.

You are invited to take part in helping us complete Planet Earth’s UFOs. All the UFOs are posted opposite. Some are ‘WAITING’ for YOU, and some have been ‘TAKEN’ by SOMEBODY!

Take chances, make choices, tell stories, imagine the possibilities, and connect to the bottom draw of other knitters across the globe.

Please leave comments, and for more information or to book a UFO, e-mail ufo@prickyourfinger.com

Happy knitting and love,

Rachael Matthews

There is also a Ravelry group here.

I love the idea of getting rid of UFOs — and contributing to the world of art. I first heard about Rachael Matthews in her profile in KnitKnit: Profiles + Projects from Knitting’s New Wave by Sabrina Gschwandtner, which really is s splendid book.

51hb476ywnl_sl160_

tea

I was not able to get to my spinning yesterday as planned, instead I ran around and applied for jobs and cleaned.  Here are a few pictures of my sleepy and relaxed holiday of last week:

leaves-1

Real spring is so wonderful.  It is still coming here, but the weather is warm.

Being back in Saskatoon is interesting after being in Vancouver because spring is so different. The temperature is about the same now, but the vegetation is not quite so luxuriant:

spring-2

There are just a few leaves poking through:

spring-3

It never feels like the trees are waiting to take over.

spring-1

The grass is waiting to take over instead, though apparently the grasslands would not return without the fires that used to be set every spring. There would instead be park land with trees and grass.

Looks like the folks over at Ravelry edit their webpage too:

ravelry

I hate it when I do that. . . I wonder if you can have your blog in beta.

Apologies to everyone who has come here and found everything in an unfit state for visitors. At home I on occasion descend into a state of C.H.A.O.S (can’t have anyone over), but the blog stays open for everyone to visit — maybe that will teach me not to be so lax.

I doubt it.

I just got back from Vancouver and remembered my camera this time.

Spring is so lovely there, though late this year:

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I love the riot of vegetation. It always feels like it is waiting to take over:

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I also tried to get to knitterly pursuits, but ended up spending most of my time on more prosaic things that pay bills better.

Famously, when you walk around with a hammer everything looks like a nail — I walk around with a ball of yarn and various implements itching to make it into something else.

I recently came across a book that shows me I am not alone (if all of you reading blogs on the subject are not enough to tell me that already): A Field Guide to Hyperbolic Space by Margaret Wertheim (you can order it here), published by the Institute for Figuring.  Of course, I had to order one immediately.

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It’s all about geometry from the perspective of needlecraft — and crochet being one of the best ways to represent hyperbolic space. I have seen several articles about this in various knitting and crochet magazines over the years, but this is the first chance I have had the chance to really get into the theory of the thing.

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I have been short of reading material in the last few days, and this will be just the ticket. I haven’t had the immediate opportunity to learn anything about theoretical geometry in years, I think I miss it.

The previews for the spring and summer issue of Vogue Knitting are out here. I am completely smitten with some of the patterns.

I especially like the new neutrals story. there really is something I can’t define but find irresistable about an asymmetrical sweater.

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I am so excited because I got a subscription to Vogue Knitting for Valentine’s Day this year and this will be my first issue for a while that will be delivered right to my door.

I just got back from Vancouver, and on one of my flights there (it always seems to take two) I sat next to an Indian man. He was wearing a turban and traditional clothing, including a white cotton wrap that had a wonderful woven in edging in red and gold.

As I was knitting I dropped my yarn on the floor and picked it up. He gently took the yarn off my knee and put it on his own. He then proceeded to measure out more yarn for me each time I needed it until I had finished my ball and stopped knitting. He even reeled it out and rewound it when the mechanically wound ball was too small and no longer held together properly. I was impressed with his dexterity with it. I think he must have had some practice with weaving or other textiles, because I can’t imagine anyone being able to manipulate yarn so gracefully without some practice.

We talked a bit after I stopped knitting, but he didn’t speak English very well, and I don’t speak any Indian languages. I was happy to meet someone who is a kindred spirit in fibre.

Something that has fascinated me for years is that when one culture interprets something from another culture they always interpret it a completely different way from the way the original culture interprets it.

For instance while in China I saw sushi made with mayonnaise and a fairly large piece of salmon wrapping the roll instead of nori — it was Cantonese sushi. I did eat sushi while I was in China though not that kind, but I don’t recommend it until you are there long enough you don’t care if you get sick anymore.

I was reminded of this yesterday as I was home sick an going over some library books and magazines I had lying around. The library book was The French-Inspired Home, with French General by Kaari Meng and the magazine was Marie Claire Maison (I am learning French for work and perhaps vacations in Paris — I should be able to write off French magazines on my taxes). What really interested me was the contrast between the two visions of the world.

Here is a snippet of one of the pictures from The French Inspired Home:

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Here are a couple from Marie Claire Maison:

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They are both lovely, but it is apparent to me which of these places is in California. I think my natural taste runs to the American version, but I love to think of myself living in the French version with its elegant spareness.

I also live with foreboding that I will always need to move somewhere smaller and need to fit all my stuff in there. Right now I live in the main floor of a house with approximately 800 square feet (or about 87 square metres) without a closet for the vacuum, so moving somewhere smaller is not inconsequential. Actually, I think our place is fairly large — I moved here from a studio that was really small (and beige which is worse).

It occurs to me that I have gaping holes in my education relating to various things. In the culinary arts I don’t know how to make mashed potatoes, potatoes in general are a great void that I know very little about. When I tried to make baked potatoes for Valentine’s Day because of a special request I mistook the time, and they were still uncooked (we put them back in the oven for half an hour and made hash browns the next day).

I have promised to deliver mashed potatoes today, and I think I will need to pull out a cookbook (The Joy of Cooking has saved me many times). I am also hazy on how to steam broccoli, but I make a mean chocolate cake, spanakopita, and, after polling the room I can say, coconut cream pie.

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I am bad at things that everyone is supposed to be able to do. The birthday cake above however was in my opinion the best chocolate cake I ever ate (I think the recipe was from Susan Mendelson’s Mama Now Cooks Like This: The Best of Susan Mendelson with candied violets on top from my last trip to Montreal).

I suppose that it is inevitable that people will have holes in their educations. I am trying to think what the holes in my knitting education are — I would say that they mainly revolve around socks. If it is time for true confessions, I have never knit a pair of socks. I knit a pair of slipper socks once, but actual socks never. I have just never really wanted to — I get hot feet.

What holes do you have in your education, knitting or otherwise?

A while ago I was at my parents’ house and I was looking at my mother’s buttons. She doesn’t sew much any more and I asked if I could have some of her vintage buttons:

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This was a fairly tense moment — after a pause she said: “I don’t think I am ready to think of buttons I bought as vintage.”

Now my mother is not very old and as far as I could tell some of her buttons go back to the 30’s or 40’s. Obviously she was not buying buttons then, she wasn’t born then. But how to save the moment? I had called my mother’s buttons dated, kitschy, and old.

I did point out that it would not have been possible for her to purchase certain buttons as they were older than her, and she did mention getting some from various individuals, which seemed to defuse the situation somewhat.

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I am not sure that the rift in the crafty fabric of the family was healed, but I did get the buttons I wanted.

I got up early yesterday morning to take out the recycling, and I was completely surprised by how nice it was:

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Generally I take out the recycling as fast as I can on a Saturday morning, run back inside as quickly as possible and try to forget the whole sorry business, but not this time. I was inspired to run back inside to grab the camera. To give you an idea of how improbably this was at 8:00 on a Saturday morning at -22 centegarde, here is a glimpse of what I was wearing:

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Dressing gown, boyfriend’s shoes, coat. As I said later — “for some reason I don’t understand, it was cold, but it didn’t feel bad.”

I also went to the yarn store as I needed some particular yarn to submit a design, and ended up buying enough to make a summer sweater (sweaters in summer make more sense here than they do in many places). It is Classic Elite Yarns, classic one fifty and one of my favourite shades of blue:

classiceliteyarns

I am thinking cardi, lacy, summer, blue — and that is all you are getting at this time.

A calming trend

I have spent almost the whole weekend cleaning and getting rid of unnecessary stuff. It is shocking how many useless belongings I have accumulated. I moved out to Saskatoon three and a half years go with my luggage allowance on the plane and then some more things in a truck a few months later, but to give you an idea it only cost me $800 to move from Vancouver, so we are not talking about that much, but here I am with a house stuffed to the gills.

So here I am getting rid of more. After two days, I have achieved clarity (I mean unclutteredness).

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Besides everything else, I got this yarn in the mail recently from Jess and Milkyrobot:

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So everything will continue to look up.

I love displacement activity — there are few things in life that make me feel as good as accomplishing my displacement goals.

Everything changes

I have been having the most confused and twisted week/six months. Without giving too many details everything has been changing and changing back, and I feel twisted into knots — not the clean, apparent, rational knots of rope, but the fuzzy, messy, irrational knots of alpaca that are impossible to untie without ruining the yarn and a great deal of swearing. The kind of knots that should just be cut out.

Now it looks like I will be laid off as well — yes, I have a day job, but perhaps not for long. I suppose I was naive to think the down turn and political noise would not affect me, but there you go. I am left with a vague sense of rest that I did not buy a house and that I can move without a great deal of difficulty. Even if it is only into my parents’ basement.

The media always tells me that is what people my age do, and perhaps they will turn out to be right in this case after all.

On the plus side, my parents have a beautiful garden to take knitting photos in and forest a few blocks away. I could go hiking and knit the whole day through.

I have several months before that happens, so I think I will focus on displacement activity this weekend — yoga, brunch with friends, and cleaning out the back closet.

A bit of a purge

I have been having a bit of a go at disposing of some of the extraneous matter in the house. It is a thing of beauty — the drawers in my dresser close, without the help of a good nudge from my hip, and the clothes in my closet are all in season and actually fit me now. I could wear them today and might actually want to — though not obviously all at once.

I am starting to work on the back closet as well, and I have decided to say goodbye to a few back issues of knitting magazines. I have listed them in my Etsy shop. I have also decided to part with my version of Lyra’s coat.

Lyra's Coat

It’s a little sad, but I just can’t keep everything I make and will likely not wear, just because I made it. It used to be okay because I only made as much as I could almost justify needing, but I feel like the blog and publishing have created this great voracious monster that needs to be regularly appeased with knitting.

For all of you who have been waiting impatiently and for all of those who did not know you needed to be excited yet, I would like to announce a new version of the West Wind Gloves.

This version is for the same gloves, except they are knit in the round. I like this pattern so much, and now you can knit them if you like those old dpn.

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If you would like any more information about the pattern, I would invite you to the pattern page, or if you know right now, I would invite you to click here:

Welcome Joeli

I recently started working with a new tech editor, Joeli Caparco. I am very excited to have her working with me and wanted to take a minute to allow her to introduce herself to you:

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Could you please tell me a bit about yourself?
For some reason, I think this is always the hardest question to answer. I’m in my early twenties and have a degree in Mathematics. For 18 years of my life I lived in Rhode Island, but now live in England with my husband. I prefer to knit everything as seamless as possible. I’m also a perfectionist and won’t admit to how many revisions just this one question has gone through. My favorite colour is teal and my favorite animal is either a turtle or a hippo. I can never answer as to what my favorite movie or food is because I think that they are too general of categories. Ask me my favorite action movie that includes a montage or my favorite food with cheese on it and then I might be able to answer (Rocky IV and pizza, respectively).

When did you start knitting and what inspired you to try it?
I started knitting when I was 6. I can’t remember why I wanted to learn but I can remember that it was my neighbor that taught me the basics. The rest I learned from reading books.

What do you like to knit the most?
Probably socks. They’re quick, don’t require seaming, always fit, and are never unflattering.

Do you do other crafts (i.e. could you tech edit crochet patterns)?
Unfortunately I don’t.

I see you have a mitten pattern, Corazon published in Knitty, winter 2006: do you see yourself as more of a designer or tech-editor? Is there a tension between the two for you? Do you have a favourite?
I definitely see myself as more of a tech-editor. Designing is something that I enjoy but it is very hard for me to come up with ideas. Once I have a finished item I can write the pattern no problem. Doing the math and writing the pattern is the easy (and my favourite) part and this lends itself well to tech-editing. There is definitely no tension between the two.

I notice your main website is a cooking blog, Baking in Galoshes, what would be the one kitchen tip you would share?
I did have a knitting blog but I found it too hard to post when so much of what I knit has to be kept a secret for ages (lots of test knitting). My kitchen tip would be to perfect a few basic recipes. I sometimes have disastrous attempts at cooking for company which I think is just down to bad luck. One birthday party I managed to mess up both deserts (lemon meringue pie and cheesecake–neither set) BUT because I have perfected a basic (and very quick to make) sponge cake recipe I was able to make it work (tip: sponge cake with unset lemon filling and a decent meringue topping is delicious!).

If someone wants to start out as a tech editor, where would you recommend they begin?
I’d say start out test knitting. If you’re knitting a lot already then you’re probably familiar with finding errors in a pattern and working with lots of different types of patterns. But test knitting is a really great way to build up references. As is often true in life I think the trick is to get your foot in the door and use that experience to move up the ladder. Ravelry is a truly amazing source for finding work.

If other designers are looking for a tech editor, are you available?
Absolutely! They can contact me by email (joeli.caparco at gmail dot com) or on Raverly (user name: Joeli).

If you could only knit with one yarn for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock Yarn unless I’m allowed to bring back discontinued yarns in which case Jaeger Matchmaker Merino 4ply.

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I bought this yarn recently — okay nine months ago or so. It is called Noro Taiyo and is made of It is 40% Cotton, 30% Silk, 15% Wool, and 15% Nylon, colour #1 (see colour card here).

It is scrumptious, soft and pretty. I have decided what to do with it finally, but you will need to wait to see it (delightful idea that you would care!).

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It makes me think of Good Omens by Neil Gaimon and Terry Pratchett: the scene with the English children sitting around trying to imagine what all the flavours of ice cream at Baskin Robbins in “America” could be. The dialogue as I remember it goes as follows:

“well there’s chocolate, strawberry and vanilla.”

“What other flavours can there be?”

“There could be strawberry-chocolate. . .”

Then all the children sat back and imagined all the flavours there could be that would somehow be derived from English ice cream flavours. This yarn feels like a combination in fondest imaginings of strawberry, chocolate and vanilla to make a fourth flavour.

I will tell you this — in my mind it will be the most lovely and best summer shell-like sweater ever. We will see how well I am able to bring it into the world.

I got included in my first Etsy treasury today, see here.

As these things are ephemeral, here is a bit of a screen shot (sorry, my screen isn’t large enough to get the whole thing):

etsytreasury

I have been having a little exchange with M.K. over email, and I failed to properly read her description of her pattern carefully enough. I was mistaken about the sizing, and she has sized the Matilda & Tillie pattern up to 27″! That is very exciting for someone with a 24″ head who likes wearing her hair up.

I was correct about my other point: it is still cold in Saskatoon.

Upgrading

Sorry to anyone who was trying to access the site earlier today and was having problems. I was upgrading my WordPress installation.

It was much easier this time, with only mild swearing and no tears.

Hint: always download the content of your blog before doing anything else

Lest you think I have been bone idle all weekend, please take a gander at my new Etsy shop. I have improved it, added more listings, and signed up for a few showcase listings.


It has been on the list of things to do for a long time.

My glamourous life

I just got back from Vancouver, and I will be posting pics of what I was knitting and what fibre I bought shortly.

What I would really like to say now is that though jetsetting all over the place is supposed to be very glamourous and I do enjoy it overall, it involves an unreasonable amount of getting up at 4:30 in the morning.

My Ravelry store

On this bright Saturday morning I got up and populated my Ravelry store.

All my designs will continue to be available through my blog, but if you prefer to purchase patterns through Ravelry, please see it here.

If you would just like to visit me on Ravelry, my username is SSutherland.

While we were in North Dakota we got to go to Little Shell Pow Wow on Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. Pow wows are so fun.

I think they are the most exuberant display of fibre art I have ever seen. Everyone makes their own clothing and the dancers are judged on their outfits as well as their dancing. Some are traditional and use almost entirely natural supplies and some are very bright colours, with a special preference for fluorescent green.

Just look at the artistry in these moccasins:

As far as I can tell everyone is welcome, so if you have a chance you should go.

I just got back from a lovely trip trip down south of the boarder. Here are a few pictures as a little taste of things to come:

Here is a picture of Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota:

And here is a picture in York, Nebraska:

And another of North Dakota:

The Great Plains were looking beautiful and I would recommend a trip, but I have to say that the food was not great, until I got to Kansas and got to eat the best watermelon I have ever tasted. I have stories of fibrous adventures and knitting that got done, which I will be posting about over the next few days, but for now I need to go to bed.

p.s. you know how Canadians, Americans, Australians, Brits, etc. all speak the same language, but not quite? Well in the United States, if you are ever in a rush, please remember that “restroom” is the preferred local usage, but “toilet” works everywhere I have been.

Susan Gibbs has finished her draw for her stash, so if you bought tickets, head on over and check.

I didn’t win, but that’s okay I don’t really need more yarn anyway and it sounds like the mounts raised are substantial.  She raised $10,380, when she needed $5000 to cover the costs of the wheelchair.

Congratulations Susan! You must be so happy your efforts are so successful.

When I got home from work yesterday I was so excited to find a Canada Post parcel delivery notice. I am waiting for some very pressing yarn orders with deadlines attached, and I am feeling very impatient.

When I got to the post office and I first saw the box, I was confused as it looked too big and heavy to be yarn. Then I saw the return address and it all came flooding back to me: I was sick a few weeks ago, and I was idly surfing the Internet in the middle of the morning and came upon the Folio Society website (okay, I had it bookmarked — in a folder called bibliophilia, please let your mind now fill with lurid images), and I decided that I would finally join after being patient for . . . oh, a very long time.

So now I have the “Empires of the Ancient World” introductory offer in my living room:

I have since gone online and ordered my four books to cement the deal. This is why credit cards and the Internet are a perilous, perilous combination not to be mixed by the unwary.

More travels

This weekend we drove from Vancouver to Saskatoon. This is not really knitting related, but here are some pictures from west to east:

Outside Lake Louise Alberta

Prairie from my window

Prairie road

As we previously discussed there is a small problem with the placement of the pockets on my coat, so here are instructions to show the way I have dealt with this little problem.

This is what they are like now:

Lyra’s Coat with botched Pockets

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I cut half the threads that make the coat at one side, slightly staggered, so the join won’t show too badly and unwind the cast on edge:

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Then I cut the other half at the other side and unwound those too:

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Finally, I will put the yarn on a tapestry needle and graft the two sides together:lyras-coat-botched-pockets5.jpg

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The unevenness will go out after I “block” it — actually this will be more of a “wash.”

Bookbinding

Last night I went to a bookmaking class. It was the second of two and I made two whole books.

Here are some pictures of the first one:

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It is very handy as the book contents are instructions on how to make more books.

The next one was much more involved. Here are some pictures of it too:

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This one has two spines and opens from the middle.

It has an accordion fold on the left with separate signatures for notes — you could categorize your thoughts and an envelope for little bits of stuff:

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It also has a separate signature on the right with a selection of fancy papers. Apparently, this is so that there are always supplies for collage on hand. I confess I can’t imagine the desire ever striking me, but the idea that there are people in the world who are occasionally struck by the desire to collage immediately and always carry a supply of paper and presumably some kind of paste greatly appeals to me. I am usually only ever struck by the desire to knit, which is much less likely to lead to sticky fingers and a gummy table in cafés etc.

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The world must be a more interesting place with such people in it.

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