Friday, March 23, 2018

Improvisation

I was always crap at impov in college (music major here!).  I had to learn to do it and I understood the concept of it.  Nearly every time, I froze up or it was totally boring or I wasn't happy with what I did.  I'm not gonna lie, fear of playing something completely awful dominated my experience around it. (One prof told me I would be fine if I just got out of my head... and another prof told me I would be find if I just came to a lesson after a few drinks!! gotta love old jazz guys - they have no filter).  Once it was out there, there was no taking it back and if it was total crap, it was forever total crap.

Some knitters have this same fear with their knitting and deviating from a pattern.  Amazingly, I've never really had that fear.  Deviations could work or not work and all I had to do was rip it out and try it again.  (This is what lifelines are for!)  Nothing in my knitting has to stay 'forever total crap' if I want to fix it.

When I bought this lovely yarn, the idea was to knit Tin Can Knits' Windswept.  It's a lovely yarn, this is a lovely sweater; together, it will be lovely!  But I hit a few snags, and it had me re-thinking this plan.  After some further project stalking, it seemed this sweater looked great on a specific body type (that wasn't my body type).  So I frogged what I had done, the yarn went back into the bag and into stash purgatory.

Au revoir, pretty yarn!
It was in purgatory for over a year when I got the itch to knit it again.  I actually kept coming back to a pattern by the same designer, from the same collection even:  the Lush Cardigan. But again, body type and fit... grumble, grumble.  After a bit of plotting, I decided that I wanted elements of the sweater, but not the exact sweater.  I can do that.  And if I hate it, I can just rip it out again and try something else again in 2 more years. ha!

I have detailed construction notes on my project page in Ravelry, but the TL;DR of it is: I took the lace at the top, made it a V-neck pullover, increased the circumference to give it positive ease, then knit until it was long enough to wear as a tunic with leggings.

When I got down to the bottom, I decided I wanted a little less structure - a split hem was just the thing!  BUT, a split hem meant switching from knitting in the round to knitting flat; this also likely meant a change in gauge (the size of the stitches) and required a change in needle size (so it didn't look wonky).  I wasn't sure how I wanted to handle this, and I knew I would want to reinforce the spot where the front & back split and I wasn't sure how to handle that either!

Then the solution came to me - why not steek it?!
("steek" is knitter-speak for cutting your knitting.)

I hadn't done a partial steek like this before, but I'd done a full steek on my Sugarleaf cardigan.  This couldn't be as intimidating as that!  I also wanted to try securing my steek stitches on my sewing machine, and these little baby steeks would be perfect practice!

I designated certain stitches as 'steek stitches' in my sweater, knit to the length I wanted and bound the knitting off.  Then I dug out my trusty swatch and dialed in my Singer sewing machine to test sewing into my knitted fabric.

After a few adjustments, I landed on this:


Tiny stitch length is key!  My sewn stitches just disappeared, especially when I was between the knit Vs!


When zoomed back, it wasn't noticeable at all. So I prepped some ribbon to sew onto my swatch.



After I sewed that down, I mocked up the reinforcement for the split.


All good and practically invisible in the middle of the stitch!


Next up was sewing & cutting the real thing!  Here is the bottom of the sweater, with the sewn reinforcement in place:


I turned on my brightest light, got the glasses on and carefully cut between my sewn reinforcements.


After the cutting, I picked up stitches for the ribbing just like I would a button band or collar.  Once those were done, it was time to sew ribbon over the cut edges to help the ribbing keep its shape and protect the cut stitches from fraying (and really, keeping the fuzz off of everything else I own! I wasn't concerned about the knitting unraveling at all.) .


I sewed both long sides down, then the top pieces last.


When all was said and done, I was very happy with the outcome.


I will definitely use a sewn reinforcement for steeks in the future. Give it a try!  Take a little time to dial in your machine, test your swatch, sew slowly.

One tip - I found that there was an edge on the bobbin plate of my sewing machine that had never caught store-bought material, but did snag my swatch when I sewed it.  So I held tissue paper under my knit fabric as I fed it through the machine to keep it from snagging.  I didn't intend to sew the tissue to the material, but the few times I did, it just peeled right off.

My completely improvised sweater is done and cozy and I love it! No takebacks!











Tuesday, March 6, 2018

BRB, Dyeing...

A few years ago, a friend and I went on a mini-version of the I-75 yarn crawl.  Part of the festivities were special discounts, sales and drawings to win things! I entered just because, and instantly forgot because I seem to rarely have good luck.  About a week later, I received a phone call from one of the southern-most shops we visited, and the lady on the other end said I had won a prize drawing for 10 balls of Cascade 220 superwash, a pattern and a bag. Awesome, right?!

She got my address and shipped the whole thing to me since I wasn't exactly local.  I don't remember seeing the prize out that day, but was a bit disappointed when I opened the box.  It was periwinkle.  2200 yards of periwinkle. 

This photo is from WEBS.  If you are a person who can wear periwinkle, get your own here.
Now, for some people, periwinkle is a lovely color they can wear.  I am not one of those people.  I am one of the people who put on periwinkle and instantly look like they are recovering from (or still suffering from or have succumbed to) an awful illness.  I can't wear even a little periwinkle next to my face, let alone an entire garment's worth of periwinkle.  What was I going to do with this?

My first thought was to try to destash it.  Someone who liked and could wear periwinkle might want it.  Locally, I took it in to destash night at my LYS and said make me an offer.  No takers.  Then I put it in destash on Rav.  I got some hearts, but not even as much as one PM about buying it.  In 2 years.

My second thought was that it could be overdyed.  I wanted to avoid this if I could, because I had heard you can make a terrible mess of things and ruin the yarn if you don't know what you're doing.  Felted yarn isn't much good for anything except... felt.  This was superwash, so felting wasn't really an option, but it could get crunchy if I acid-burned it.  Since I didn't know what I was doing, it sat in my stash, in the bag, for a few years, moved houses, and generally took up space.

Fast-forward to last month.  I had recently rearranged my stash and was tired of moving this yarn from place to place (both in my stash and geographically).  Periodically, I'd gotten the idea to overdye this stuff and had never just gone for it.  There are tons of great sites online with dyeing tutorials, but I kept coming back to DyeYourYarn.com . My last inclination was to Kool-aid dye itLots of people do it, and it seems to work really well.  But then I realized it would take approximately $40 worth of Kool-aid to dye it all.  Forget that!!

I reconsidered using food dyes instead of Kool-aid.  They are also edible and generally safe to handle.  They are also easily obtainable and probably have more color combinations available (as you can create your own with a drop of this or that).  I already had citric acid in the cupboard, so that wasn't a hurdle and it's pretty easy to handle safely as well. 

I realized that I had more than enough yarn to experiment with dyeing and still have plenty left over.  I already had a crockpot, a food thermometer, citric acid and plenty of yarn.  All I needed was some food dye and I had a 50% off coupon from Joann's - it was time to just do this! 

First step was sampling.  I wound off 5 10 gram mini-skeins and secured them using crochet cotton ties.


After I prepped the yarn, I put it in the dye bath (water and citric acid) to soak and really get saturated.  Meanwhile, I chose some colors to play with: Royal Blue, Teal, Violet, Burgundy and Pink.


Newb facepalm warning: Put on gloves when you open those little vials unless you wanna stain your fingers.  Stupid foil lids!!


I put the yarn & dye bath into the crockpot on high to heat until it reached ~180 degrees. When it was close to temperature, I prepared my dye by diluting measured amounts in hot water. 

Yes, those are wine glasses. Judge if you wanna...  They pour better than the little glass dish on the right.  
Once the dye bath was at 180, I added each color of dye to a specific area of the pot.  Everything I read indicated to let it cook at 180 until the water was clear.

Yeah, about the black crock... 

After a bit, I scooped some water up in a wine glass and when it was mostly clear, we called the first mission done.  I unplugged the crockpot and let it cool overnight.

After a thorough rinsing, spinning out the excess water and drying, I had transformed periwinkle into this:

Clockwise: Teal, pink, burgundy, violet, royal blue, original
ALL of which will look better on me than periwinkle!!  The yarn wasn't crunchy and it was fun to see how the colors pooled when they overlapped!  I decided that blue and teal were my faves, so I did another test - with the remaining yarn from the ball shown on the top left.


I made careful notes of my dye proportions and scaled this up to half a skein. I loved it, so I was ready to do ALL of it!


I ended up with a second crockpot, with a WHITE crock - because I needed a bigger one to do two skeins at once AND because black isn't helpful for seeing when the water is clear... I learned a few things about water ratios and how fast dye will strike if you don't swirl it first... and I learned that a good washing after dyeing is necessary because food dye has a wee bit of sugar in it and can make your hands a bit sticky. haha

Now, I have over 1,300 yards of lovely blue/teal yarn that is dying to become a sweater next fall!


I've already knit a swatch and know it will become a Worsted Boxy by Jojo Locatelli.

While this was work & I definitely don't see myself becoming a yarn dyer (wet yarn is heavy, y'all!), I enjoyed doing it and will absolutely be dyeing again in the future.  In fact, I already have some yarn in mind... :)







Wednesday, January 24, 2018

BuJo Like No One's Watching

Okay, my final thought on my bullet journal is this:  BuJo like no one's watching.

There are many artistically talented people who bullet journal.  That is great.  I love looking through the hashtag when I've got a few minutes of waiting to do (but not enough to pull out the knitting!).

There are many people who post their amazing journals daily on Instagram, etc.  That is also great.  It's great that they feel okay sharing that with the world.

At the end of the day, my bullet journal is for ME and me alone.



My bullet journal is private.  Not every page is a masterpiece.  Most pages are just black ink on a white page.  I may sometimes share something I've drawn, if it's fantastic or fantastically terrible or just a sentiment I want to share.  That is also great.



I do this because it makes me happy, more productive, more focused, less likely to be self-critical and helps me recognize patterns related to my health, emotional and physical.  And I can't do that if I'm second-guessing every pen stroke for public consumption.



I doodle, I rant, I make mistakes, cross things out, misspell words, run out of room on a line.  But I don't reach for the white out.  I strike-through and move on.



I buy supplies as I see the NEED for them.  I do have a few stencils and a monthly grid stamp.  I used the last of my scrapbooking pen stash and as I'm killing those jelly roll pens off, I'm moving on to a pack I grabbed for $5 on Amazon.   If I feel like using something, I use it.  No saving things for when the queen comes to visit.



Same goes for notebooks.  I bought this AWESOME leather journal cover (with a plain Dick Blick sketch book inside) YEARS ago, but never used it because I was afraid of it not being perfect.  I can literally replace it anytime I want. Why was I afraid to write in it?

Yes, that is a Weeping Angel from my favorite episode of Doctor Who - Blink 

Anyway, who cares if I 'mess it up'?  I'm human.  I'm allowed to mess things up.  You are, too.

I added this train wreck right here to keep it real. 
I'd been watching too much Bob Ross and believing him when he said 'happy accidents'...
This isn't a happy anything - this is a hot mess!
But I left it in there.

If you feel like you need a way to get yourself together, grab a $5 notebook from Amazon or Walmart and a pen you like to write with and just start.  Don't think about it, just start writing.  You may be surprised with what appears on the page.



Monday, January 22, 2018

How I Bullet Journal

Going through the 'get started guide' from the official Bullet Journal people, I title my pages and number them just like they recommend.  I know it sounds silly, but those numbered pages have been really helpful to me more than once already!  I don't number the whole book at once though - I do 10-20 pages at a time.

I don't log in full sentences, but phrases instead.



I use the bullets and signifiers for tasks, events, appointments, notes, as well.  I have also added a heart for memories.



Modules:

I definitely love the index! It goes hand-in-hand with the numbered pages and I use it more than I thought I would.  Not daily, but when I need to go looking for something, it's always there for me.



I tried using a future log & found I never updated it OR referred back to it.  Also, the dates and events that mainly filled my future log are in my Google calendar.  Writing them again here, in a format I don't refer back to just didn't seem efficient to me. That one didn't get included in my set-up for this year's layout.

The monthly log didn't work out so well for me either - I tried the calendar part, and found that I wasn't updating it, like the future log, or when I did update it, there wasn't enough space for what I needed, even using abbreviated entries.  I do like the monthly task list and have a page for that each month.

I like to free write or find a poem or thought for each month, if one strikes me as perfect.  I like to start the month that way.



What I added, in lieu of the monthly & future logs, was a weekly log.  I found this idea on social media somewheres and it works really well for me.



I start each month with a new weekly log, so my logs always run 1-7 and the days of the week change.  I look at my Google calendar for appointments, holidays, etc... and mark them over to this weekly layout.  This keeps the amount of information I need to focus on pertinent without being overwhelming.



I usually use my time writing out my week as a little bit of self-care and add a quote or thought on the opposite page.  Sometimes I decorate or embellish it, sometimes I don't.  More on that later!



What I always do to my weekly log is use washi tape along the edge, to help me turn to the current week quickly.  And it's pretty.  So there's that.

Between weekly logs, I use the daily log.



I use the daily log almost exactly as described by Ryder, the creator of the bullet journal.  Some days have lots of bullets, others have a few, sometimes the day doesn't have anything I feel like recording!  And all of those are okay.  It's always there, with a fresh page, when I get back.  There's no guilt from flipping past several pre-printed pages with dates and lines and NOTHING written on them.  I know it's a little thing, but it really bugged me before.  No more!!

I also journal in my bullet journal; but only when I feel like it.  I just start writing where there is space on the page, or on the back of my daily log page.  I write until I feel like I don't have anything else to say and my next daily log goes on the next blank page.  There's something wonderful about venting all over a page and then having a nice clean page up the next time you pick it back up.  You're done with the stuff you wrote before; you don't need to read it again unless you choose to.



Another really popular aspect to bullet journals are habit trackers.  You can track anything you like: sleep, water consumption, savings, moods, bodily functions, intimacy... the sky is the limit. Seriously, if you want to track it, someone on Pinterest has ideas for how to do so.

These are harder for me, as I don't tend to flip all the way through my journal every night.  I think they are a good thing, though.  I'm going to try to continue working on creating this habit to see if any trends emerge.  If I find a better-for-me way to habit track, I'll share.





Thursday, January 18, 2018

Another Bullet Journal Convert

In the past, I had tried to be a journaler, which I abandoned when I went through a dry spell, got too busy or bored myself with 'more of the same' entries when I made myself write every day.  I had a foray into being a Highly Effective Person complete with the planner than weighed more than a newborn, filled with preprinted pages that were largely not right for my life/career at the time.  I had had a Blackberry (which the IT guy said would interface with my school Outlook when show choir ruled my life) but when Outlook wouldn't sync (because we didn't have the license to do that, apparently - discovered AFTER I bought the Blackberry), I still ended up entering everything in 2 places anyway...  Nothing was a great fit for me (if any of these work for you, huzzah!!). 

Eventually, I was using Google calendar. The hubs & I have ours set so we can both see what the other is up to, appointment-wise.  We don't put work details in there every day: my day is pretty standard and his is too unpredictable, so neither would be a good use of time. Google calendar is great, but it's simply that:  A calendar.  I wasn't tracking any kind of productivity, beyond Post-it to do lists that got thrown out when finished.  And I wasn't doing any kind of reflection writing anymore.

I had started keeping some lists, goals, etc. in separate notebooks based on subject.  That kind of worked, but I often found that I was always needing something in a different notebook (and never the one(s) I had with me, naturally).  Soon, I was drowning in little notebooks that were maybe 15-20% used and I just wasn't keeping up with them anymore either. But I needed to be doing SOMETHING to keep things on track.  Brain fog makes all the days/hours/thoughts run together to the point I know I thought about doing something... but did I actually do it?  Did I talk to the hubs about doing it? Did I actually talk to the hubs about doing it, or just think I should talk to the hubs?  and on and on...  The brain fog is the worst.  And the more you have running around in your brain, the worse it gets.  Somehow, you gotta get that stuff out and the most effective way I've found is to write it down.




Enter the bullet journal.  I had heard a few podcasters talking about them and initially, I was skeptical.  These women talked about their bullet journals (some call them 'bujo's for short) with the same gusto and enthusiasm as the Covey devotees had 15 years ago and the Crackberry addicts 10 years ago.  I knew that I needed to get back into some kind of practice, to feel more organized and less like I was forgetting everything all the time.  And hearing most of my English/composition teaching former colleagues' words in my ears, I knew something written was where it's at.  (P.S. Those English teachers were right, science says. Also, here.)

If you do a Google search, you'll find ALL KINDS of things about bullet journals: articles, links, shopping suggestions for pricey European brand notebooks, calligraphy pens, stencils, rulers, art pens, markers, stamps, tape (WASHI TAPE ALL THE THINGS, Y'ALL!!), covers, custom printed layouts,.... I could go on all day.

If you go to Pinterest, it's even worse!! From the undoubtedly beautiful and aesthetically pleasing images there, one might think they needed to learn 12 types of hand lettering, be an artist, have a full compliment of art supplies and maybe a minor in graphic design to do this bullet journal thing.  Also, you quickly think you need to track EVERYTHING in your life.  There are literally spreads online for any topic you could possibly want to track.

And Instagram.  Some of the kids on IG are not only making beautiful spreads in their journals, but also nailing the #bujolifestyle to the hilt. Intimidating, but you can see that this is a thing that has caught on and hooked people!
(I recommend looking at all these links LATER - or now, if you wanna be inundated with feelings of artistic inadequacy. haha)

Let me be clear:  That is all well and good.  The people who make every page into a masterpiece are just fine.  I love to look at them sometimes and relish in how gorgeous they all are.  The people who are using this practice as 'me time' or self-care: rock on with your talented selves!  But none of that is required to have and use a bullet journal.

After struggling with the nagging feeling that I knew how this would go, again, or that I didn't want another expensive hobby, I decided to go to the source and see what the hype was about.   This is what you see:

looks around, mumbles to self, 'I have a notebook and a pen...' 

After a quick scan of their site, I decided to take a few minutes and watch their video on YouTube.  If you're interested, you should, too.  I'll be right here when you get back.

Then I found 2 articles that solidified that this was worth a shot: this one from Buzzfeed and this one from Lifehacker. I looked at those and thought, I already have the bare minimum to get started - may as well.  I grabbed the most recent of my partially-full notebooks (which I had been keeping notes from my nutritional therapist coaching calls and my therapy sessions), grabbed that roll of washi tape, marked off a new section of the notebook and dove in.

After several months of my style of bullet journaling consistently, I can say that this is scratching my itch and making me feel more together!  More on what I do coming soon!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Donita2018 - Sustain

My word for 2018 is 'sustain'.  If you're thinking that 'sustain' and 'maintain' are very similar words, you'd be right.  I like the direction we've both been moving and the direction things have taken for us (it's not without setbacks or disappointments, but you'll have that...).  When I was looking for verbs that I could focus on, I wanted something similar to 'maintain' but deeper.  This is what I found.

Sustain, verb
  1. to strengthen or support physically or mentally
  2. to cause to continue or be prolonged for an extended period or without interruption
  3. to bear (weight) without breaking or falling
  4. to uphold, affirm or confirm the justice or validity of
  5. to give support or relief to; to supply with sustenance: nourish; keep up
  6. to uphold as valid, just or correct
Sustaining is exactly what I need to do.  And so I hope to just that.

After years of chaos, unhealthy situations, and constant stress, my soul is still so hungry for sustenance.  Every time that I feel like I'm almost back to where I was made to be, it seems another layer is rolled back and I have more to unpack and heal.  It's a process and it takes time, energy, resources and intention to sustain this progress and continue working toward the me I was created to be.

I hope to read new books, both fiction and non-fiction.
I hope to see new movies & TV shows and not just rely on re-watching things that I'm comfortable with (but don't think this means I won't binge The Office or Dawson's Creek again - because that is ALWAYS an option).
I hope to continue to grow my yoga practice.
I hope to find new ways to bond with Karma since it's just us two most afternoons now.
I hope to continue journaling and using my version of the bullet journal system.
I hope to continue to be a maker.

My making goals this year are simple:

  • 20K yards in FOs again
  • Knit/weave/spin from :
    • stash
    • library
    • queue
    • handspun
  • Spin for large projects (fleeces!)
  • Continue to sew
  • Finish a blanket (or 2)



Sunday, January 7, 2018

Donita2017 Reflection

My theme for 2017 was to "Maintain My Groovy Self".  Maintaining what we've been working towards the last few years proved more challenging than we anticipated when I chose this focus.  But I'm so glad that we did.  Because we didn't have crazy ambitious goals and timelines in our minds, we were better able to respond and adjust when stuff went sideways.  There were financial set-backs, we lost my Ellie dog, personal set-backs, more unexpected home-related issues... But we're okay and we are managing all of it as well as I think we can.  You know, as well as we can without winning the lottery, obviously.

As for my hope of ending 2017 healthier and happier, I think I can say that happened.  Not as healthy as I would have hoped, but certainly still moving in the right direction, even if it feels like a snail's pace sometimes.  As for happier, I think I am moving in that direction as well.  <schmoop> And the hubs and I continue to grow together and love each other more through each trial. </schmoop>

A big part of my personal wellness and happiness is creating, so let's talk about that!

Crafting goals for this year were:

  • 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!

How did I stack up?

Spinning:  I spun for 2 sweaters this year!  Woohoo!
I have started sampling for my first fleece from the closet, but there are some challenges.  More on that later.

Sewing: I sewed 5 dresses, 2 pair of leggings and a tunic.

Knitting: I knit 4 adult sweaters, 5 baby sweaters, 2 summer tops, 9 pairs of socks and 19 accessories (mainly hats & cowls).

Afghans: I started one... but didn't get very far.  Plans for more to come!

Learn brioche: Nope.  But I did learn to weave!!

Weaving: 5 towels, 4 placemats, 2 table runner type things, and 4 scarves.  It's addicting!  Thanks for being my hook-up, Purling Dervish!

Knit from stash: 27 projects from stash!
Knit from queue: 11 projects from queue!
Knit from handspun: only 2 projects from handspun - but one was a sweater! And I have two more handspun sweaters on the needles.

Knitted & woven FOs can be seen on Ravelry hereHandspun can be seen on Ravelry here.

So....

Knitting - 16,800
Spinning - 7,054
Weaving - 2,314

That comes to a grand total of 26,168 yards!  That's more than I expected to accomplish - and really good, considering I ended the year with another sweater about 98% done!

I'd call my goals met and my crafting year...