Friday, April 7, 2017

Donita2017 - Q1 update

Here we are, the end of the first quarter of 2017.   While I've been short on words the last few months, I've not been short on FOs.  I've finished 3 sweaters in 3 months!  It's crazy!

I decided that I really had so many nice sweater quantities of yarn, with so many nice patterns to make them from, but I kept letting smaller projects get started and the sweaters languished.  And this year, that was going to change!

I already told you about my first sweater of the year, which was also the first time I reclaimed yarn from a previous FO and re-worked it into a new garment.  This process was so satisfying!  And I loved the sweater so much, I'm already plotting knitting another one in a neutral color!

February's sweater was my first garment knit from my handspun yarn.  I was excited to use this yarn, I was excited about finding a pattern I thought it would look stellar in, and I was excited/nervous to use my handspun on a garment that hopefully would get a lot of wear.  What if it didn't wear well?  What if my spinning or plying wasn't up to snuff?

Unfortunately, all of those fears were put on the back burner once I got into the knitting.  I've detailed all this on my project page on Ravelry, so I won't go into detail here.

What I will do into detail on is how much I love the finished object!  My handspun is holding up well, there hasn't been much visible wear or pilling (I'm crediting this to the longer staple of the Corriedale), and this sweater has become what I was hoping for: a cardigan I can grab when I'm running out of the house that goes with everything.  It is cozy warm, soft and comforting.  And I'm already plotting the purchase of more of this fiber in the future! (Several thousand yards of spinning in the future, but whatever...)

The chevrons did turn out lovely, though!
Next on my tour of lemonade-out-of-lemons sweaters, I had to find a sweater that would be a good fit for the main color yarn I purchased for this sweater.  I really liked working with the yarn and the sweater practically flew off of the needles.  It was a great knit and I'm really happy with the way the finished sweater turned out. My mods are listed on my project page.  I was a little concerned about changing sizes through the yoke would be tricky on a bottom-up sweater, but this went really well! Ysolda's patterns are so well-written and it makes modifications so much less of a gamble!



I finished a few gifts so far this year, too!

A tablet rest that looks creepily like anatomy until it's fully assembled (check the photos snerk) and a stripey cowl for a swap package:


A hat with a ridiculously large pompom to complete a baby gift for an expectant mother/knitting friend:


and a late Christmas gift for a friend who loves frogs and all things green, out of cheery green handspun:



After knitting a few cowls for others lately, I decided I needed one for myself.

And this gorgeous yarn didn't bleed a bit!!  Shout out, Forbidden Woolery!!!
I finished one pair of socks for myself, but I tried a new heel (which I really like the fit of!).  Said new heel threw off my usual measurements and I'm in the process of ripping the toes back and shortening them a bit to finish them.  But they look nice!


The other new thing that happened this quarter?  Our Squish sent me a loom!? I'm still not sure how it happened, but this pretty thing appeared at my house and so I decided to try my hand at weaving.



I don't really know what I'm doing, but I checked out books from the library, figured out how to warp the loom (whose name is Bubbeh, btw), and managed this, with some help from Nancy at the guild:



I've done two towels out of kitchen cotton that I've had for... well, longer than the hubs and I have been married... Regardless, now they are towels.  Nothing fancy, just plain weave with some fringe.  I need to figure out my selvedges, but... I made fabric in a different way!  That's fun!  And it's calming, once you figure out how to get going.



I finished one braid of spinning this quarter:




And as for my loved bullet points:

  • Spin for more large projects
    Not yet - but soon!
  • Sew
    *cricket, cricket*
  • Knit more sweaters & socks
    On track!
  • Knit an afghan or 2
    I started a blanket... 
  • Learn brioche knitting
    Weaving, brioche... it's the same right?  Weaving may be my new skill this year.  Sorry brioche.  I know you're hot right now, but I'm never really 'hot right now'.
  • Knit from:
    stash - check! everything from this page is from stash at least 6 months old  (or older...)
    queue - check!
    handspun - check!
  • 20K in finished projects again!
    On track with over 6K complete!


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

From fluff to finished object

I love spinning (have I mentioned that?).  And I love the path spinning takes to yarn and then later, finished object.

Fiber Optic has the most luscious fiber, it's always beautifully prepared and is a joy to spin.  That was exactly the case with this braid.  Seriously - click the link and go get your own.  It's totally worth it.  I'll wait.



Did you get it?  Did anything else fall into your cart along the way?  Don't worry - this is a judgement free zone.  If money and criminal charges were no object, I would just grab it all and run.  And then stop, roll around in it, gather it back up and run some more.

My humble braid found its way home from Wooster with me 2 springs ago.


This past spring, it grew into this beautiful yarn.


Not long after, it whispered that it wanted to be a shawl.  And I stretched that pattern to use as much of this yarn as possible.

This game is called yarn chicken.  And I won.
And the finished object was nearly perfect.  This picture is from before it was even washed or blocked.  It is SO soft.


I've enjoyed wearing this shawl for several months now, and it still looks as beautiful as ever!  (You can see the subtle color shifts better in this light, too!)



Friday, March 10, 2017

Isolationist, against my will

One of the hardest things about chronic illness is the isolation.

First of all, there's the emotional isolation.  This comes in all flavors.  The feeling like doctors and other medical professionals don't believe you when you try to communicate your symptoms, the constant implication that this is all psychosomatic at best or an attention grab at worst, the struggle against scripts (with their own undesirable side effects) to cover up symptoms rather than seeking the cause, the body shaming (if you're at all overweight, doctors will blame your symptoms on your weight and attempt to fat shame you into excessive exercising and weight loss pills)... I could go on here, but I won't.

There's the 'you don't look sick' phenomenon that permeates all of your social interactions.  Family, close friends, co-workers... you name it.  You don't look sick, so can what you're going through really be that bad? Cue the suspicions of psychosomatic illness/Munchausen syndrome.  We may be chronically ill, but we don't miss the side eye or even the thinly veiled comments.

The brain fog can trick you into thinking you responded to that email, or that you actually texted someone you meant to text, or that you sent that note (It's not just you - brain fog eats reminders about bills and appointments, too!).  The brain fog can also make you forget all the thoughts you had to reach out to people.  Your body is focused on surviving and it literally steals away the energy your brain needs to remember all the things.

And of course, there's the actual emotional toll that is taken by battling something physically all the time.  The mourning for the life you used to have, the life you wished you currently had and the future you may never get to experience.  Mentally bracing yourself for all of the interactions I described above.  The frustration that comes from exhaustion at the most basic of activities like vacuuming or folding a load of laundry.  The uncertainty of what you will or won't be able to do on any given day, because your body may not cooperate with your needs or your household agenda.  The feeling like you're letting down your family for not being able to do what needs to be done.

That's all internal and you'll just have to take my word for it (or the word of another spoonie, if you care to ask them).  Then there's the actual isolation.

When you don't have the energy to clean your house, or exercise (not even a walk around the block, let alone get to a gym), or shower (which happens - showers are EXHAUSTING), you don't have the energy to make plans, let alone keep them.  Or you have the energy to take a shower, but then have to sit down for the next half an hour before you can take the towel off of your head and get dressed.  Forget blow-drying your hair!  It's hard to get out for coffee or dinner.

And maybe the most frustrating part is that you need interactions like this to stay sane.  To not spiral into depression (a common complication of CIs of all types).  To try to focus on why you still go to the doctor, do your therapy, take the meds/supplements, live through the constant barrage of blood work and tests, to struggle with the financial toll all of the above takes.

It takes interactions like these to remember that your life hasn't always been what it is in this moment and it doesn't necessarily have to be like this forever.  And that's what your struggling toward: the return of some normalcy, even if just a little.

If you know a spoonie, I would ask this:  Text or email them.  Send a card, if you're inclined.  Make a FaceTime or Google Hangout date.  Let them know that you're still there for them even when they can't go shopping or run around town or take a girls trip.  It would mean the world to them.


Friday, February 17, 2017

UPDATE: Chemical Warfare

A few weeks ago, I shared a post about some Regia yarn that won't quit bleeding.  At the time of this post, I was quite put-out with Regia's customer service on this issue.
I contacted them through the contact us link on their website on January 10, 2017.  At the time of this posting, I haven't gotten a response.
I waited another week on a response and then tried another tactic.  Since I hadn't gotten any sort of response using their own form, I sent a direct email to rowanusa@sirdar.co.uk .

I emailed directly to that email address on 1/23 and received a response before 9 am the next morning.
Thanks for your email regarding the Regia Active 6-ply.  We are very sorry you have run into this problem.  Although we cannot help you with replacing the time you have invested in your project, we can help with replacement yarn.
A few things have happened since you purchased this yarn.  The distributorship has changed for Regia yarns, so the LYS you purchased the yarn from did not purchase it from us.  Secondly, when the distributorship changed, we decided we would bring some of the Regia line, but not all.  The Regia Active 6-ply is not one we carry.  So we cannot replace the exact yarn or colors - because we simply don't have them in our warehouse. 
We still want to help you and make sure your experience with Regia yarn is positive.  Would you mind taking a look at this website and see if there might be another yarn type that would work? 
If you'd like to speak to me directly, while looking at the website, I'd be glad to help.  Please let me know your preference and I'll see if we can set up a time to talk.
After I had time to review the website and review yarn options (I was also sent a PDF with 4-ply and 6-ply options to choose specific colorways), I sent a few color options back to the customer service rep for Rowan, Schachenmayr & Regia USA.  I stuck with the lines I have heard only good things about - and avoided any ungodly bright colors (sadly).  Thankfully, the Regia self-patterning sock yarns are really nice and I was able to find several I liked.

Within a day, I received a request for my shipping address and a promise that replacement yarn would be sent out the next mailing day.  I did receive a package with 2 100 gram balls of yarn, one of which was a color I requested. I sent an inquiry about the replacement of the additional 200 g of faulty yarn I purchased.  10 days later, and after a few more emails were exchanged, the customer service rep admitted he hadn't read the note about the quantity of bad yarn that needed replaced.  The 2nd 100 gram ball was meant as a thank you for my inconvenience.  Another 200 grams of 4-ply were sent out later in February.  They were two balls of the same color, but it was a color I requested, so I took it.



While I am very disappointed in my experience with the fluorescent colors of Regia, I have used their sock yarn and enjoyed it for years.  And although my persistence shouldn't have been necessary, I did receive replacement yarn.  With the distributorship changes that were described above, some companies may have tried the, 'well, you didn't actually buy it from us... so... sorry about your luck!' routine.  I appreciate that this approach wasn't taken.

Moral of the story: choose your colors wisely and never throw away a ball band until a project is finished, finished, finished.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

What was old is made new again

This fall, I (finally) made time to wash, block, and de-pill all of my sweaters.  It took a few weeks to accomplish, between contact time and drying time.  This was long overdue and was well worth it!  It made me excited to wear my sweaters again... except one.


I made this shrug back in 2010, right around the time I learned to knit.  My job at that time wasn't a good environment at all.  The most obvious, and should have been the most easily addressed, challenge was the HVAC in my classroom being controlled by a poltergeist.  It would range from all-layers-off-hair-in-a-ponytail-sweating-while-sitting-still sweltering hot to wearing-a-coat-and-gloves-while-attempting-to-teach-and-play-the-piano cold.  No one seemed to care about this, until they cared immensely when I allowed the kids to 'break dress code' and wear their coats in class... I was wearing my coat as I had to spend 8 hours in that cold and wasn't about to wear my coat while they are sitting there shivering in their t shirts!  After I got a reprimand for 'being dramatic' by insisting to wear my coat in my 57-degree F classroom, I decided that I needed something as warm as a coat, but wasn't actually a coat.  I needed a warm garment, but one that didn't have sleeves so long as to get in the way of my piano playing.

I found a bulky weight shrug pattern on Rav and decided to go for it.  I didn't want acrylic - I needed something warmer.  Enter KnitPicks Cadena.  A bulky 70/30 wool/alpaca blend with nice twist that came in lovely colors (at the time - unfortunately, they only sell natural colored at this time).  I found a pattern for a bulky weight shrug and ordered up a ton of Cadena in a royal blue color called Tide.



I crocheted this shrug in less than 2 weeks, and that included waiting for a supplemental yarn order, because gauge....  (I was a newbie to garments back then... Concepts like gauge and drape were foreign to me at this point...)  Thanks to a sweet lady named Millie, who found me more yarn in the same dye lot!! While it never fit me well, it hung on my person or the back of my desk chair my entire last year of teaching.  It kept me (and several students who I was fairly sure didn't have lice, as those were always a problem in that building... *sigh*) toasty warm on the freezing cold days in my classroom or evenings in my freezing cold ghetto apartment.

But I no longer live in a freezing cold ghetto apartment or work in a meat locker, ahem, classroom.  This shrug does my figure NO favors, so I never wear it.  So, it's been at the bottom of Rubbermaid tubs, closet organizers and my sweater chest for nearly 6 years.  And yet, I never felt compelled to give it away or find a new home for it.

When I had washed everything else in the chest, it was time to fold and reorganize the sweaters in the chest, I told myself it was time to wash it & wear it or get rid of it.  It had enough bad juju that something needed to happen with it, but not enough bad juju that I was okay with letting it go.  It occurred to me that maybe this was a good candidate to rip out and repurpose the yarn.

I've never ripped an entire finished garment before.  I felt like if I was going to the effort to rip it out, it was prudent to find out if I could do anything with the yarn I had left.  After some quick searching using Rav's awesome search parameters, I decided that this shrug was coming out!

Deep breaths

All done - thanks to the hubs for his help!

I finally decided on Lemongrass by Joji Locatelli.  At such a large gauge, the knitting has gone very quickly.

Binge watching Outlander helped the time pass quickly, too.
This yarn loves cables!  The stitch definition is so crisp!


And now it's done!



Warm enough to wear outside in the snow, which made Karma particularly happy!


And I am particularly happy to have a new(-ish) sweater to wear, not just take up space!  I wore this yesterday and couldn't be happier with it!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Donita 2017: Maintain My Groovy Self

I had a beloved professor in undergrad who regularly told her students to "Maintain your groovy selves!"  or, once we knew her lingo, just "Maintain!" Just picturing her technicolor post-its and marker notes on assignments now makes me smile.

When I sat down to think about goals for this coming year and what theme to guide them, I looked back over the last few years' themes and goals.  Sometimes I need new, sometimes I need to keep on keepin' on, ya know?  After looking through everything, I really felt like I didn't need a new challenge for this year.  I just need to maintain my groovy self!

My hope for the end of 2017 is that I continue to become healthier and happier!  And since I feel like the last few years have moved me in that direction, I'm gonna keep the party going!  2014's theme was "Enjoy what you have."  I am still lucky to have the things that we have, and I need to focus on those, not the endless chasm of wanting more...  I'm sure there will always be things I would buy if I hit the lottery, but that shouldn't devalue what we've already attained/achieved/acquired. 2015 was all about "More of what makes me happy", which leaves less room for the things that don't.  Prioritizing things that are happy and healthy for us will continue to be a focus.  2016 was a year of self-care, which seems like a culmination of the last few years.  These themes all feed into each other.  And I want to continue to refine and re-prioritize our lives in this way, as it truly has made us happier.

There are a lot of repeat bullet points from the above, so I'm not gonna spell all that out again.  I've laid out a few basic, measurable goals for our finances, my personal growth, my physical wellness, and goals for our household.  And as I can, I'll share things that have worked for us.

Because I love bullet points about my crafting, here they are!

  • Spin for more large projects
    Enjoy the fleeces currently insulating the guest room closet!
  • Sew
    Enjoy the fabric stash and machine!
  • Knit more sweaters & socks
    Wearing these on the daily makes me happy & keeps me warm.  And I have plenty of yarn to do both in my house right now!
  • Knit an afghan or 2
    We love piling under all the blankets and the love will be only increased by handknit blankets!
  • Learn brioche knitting
  • Knit from:
    stash
    queue
    handspun
  • 20K in finished projects again!


Until next time, maintain your groovy selves!



Saturday, January 21, 2017

Donita 2016: Crafty recap

You know what's awesome?  When you are reevaluating basically how you do life, and your doctor/therapist/alternative medicine professional all ask you what you do to bring joy to your life and you tell them about your small obsession with fiber arts and they unanimously agree that you should definitely embrace that and do as much of it as often as you feel you can.

Seriously.  I did not make this up.  Holy-run-on-sentence-of-excitement-and-disbelief-Batman!

Who am I to question the advice of people whose previous advice is getting me better? Really?

I made crafty goals for this past year simple, because we knew life was going to happen in a big way in 2016.
  • Knit more.
  • Spin more.
  • Sew more.
  • Design, if I feel so compelled.
How will I know if I've met these goals?
  • 20,000 yards in FOs (one of these days, I'm gonna hit that goal!!)
  • More sweaters & socks
  • Work from my queue
  • Work from my stash
  • Work my hand-spun as I finish it (don't save it for the queen!)
Knit more:  Yup!  I knit 14,975 yards of finished objects last year. A little less than 2015, but the serious uptick in spinning balanced this out.
  • 11 hats
  • 9 pairs of socks, including the hubs' first pair
  • 8 cowls and shawls, including a handspun/handknit cowl for the hubs
  • 4 sweaters
  • 2 pairs of mitts
Not my greatest garment year - more sweaters will be a goal for forever, I think.  Same goes for socks! I did knit up quite a bit of stash and knocked several projects out of my queue, so that's a win.  6 of my FOs were knit with my handspun, a good percentage!

I can't decide which of these ridiculous pictures of this cowl makes me happier...
... but it is warm and cozy! Even if I kinda look like a nun here.

Spin more: Yup! I spun 6,872 yards of finished yarn, including my first sweater quantity of handspun yarn!  Compared to less than 1,000 yards the previous year, I'm calling this a serious win.  Spinning is a legitimate mindfulness practice for me and when I spend too long away from the wheel, I feel it.  Spinning is also one of the only ways to relieve a headache for me (pain killers are an exercise in futility), so I don't deny the compulsion when the headaches strike.
  • 12 braids
  • 1 sample
  • 1 sweater quantity!!!
I'm so stinking proud of this yarn!
The links above go to search results for this year's FOs on Rav, if you want to look at all the pretty pictures.

If you're following along with the math above, I worked 21,847 yards of finished projects/yarn last year!  That's over 12 miles! I finally managed to hit that 20K goal!!! happy dance

Sew more: Nope.  With all the remodeling, moving, doctor's appointments and not knowing where my machine was in the basement for half of the year, I just haven't been able to get back into this.  I hope to get back to my machine in 2017.

Design, if I feel so compelled: I didn't feel compelled, so I didn't. I'm okay with that.  Creativity has to find you working, but when you're too tired to work, the creativity seldom comes.  And I'm not gonna beat myself up for that.

All in all, a good year, especially considering all the strides that were made in other parts of our life!