Winter Break for Adults

You know how you have a break coming up and you get all excited because you’re going to have ALL THIS TIME?  If you’re a maker, like me, maybe you plan out a project or thirteen.  Go buy supplies.  Talk about it with friends.  Print out patterns and choose your project bags. Sharpen your pencils.

While you’re talking with your friends, you also make plans to have brunch and play a board game.  Or go see a movie.  Or go for a winter hike because it’s unseasonably warm.  And there are the day trips to see the extended family in various configurations.  And you have to clean your house before your family comes over for dinner that one night.  And then your family comes over and you drink too much and put music on the that party can with the light show and wake up sated with familial love and your house is trashed again.

Photo of handknit socks and cowl in progress

Suddenly Winter Break is almost over.  You’ve only knit four rows on one project and cast on another.  You pulled out all the scrapbooking supplies, but never got started.  You think longingly of your sewing machine and the leggings you were going to sew yourself. That plan to try crewel is going to have to wait.

You wonder if anyone else notices that you’re almost out of milk (which you don’t drink, but the other three humans do, and the dog if she can get away with it). The pile of dirty laundry is epic and suspiciously contains things you know a certain smaller person didn’t wear recently. And why are there hair ties, paper clips, candy wrappers, and pieces of the wreath on the floor, mixing with the dog hair?  Don’t the other humans know the magical vacuuming robot will DIE if it hoovers up those things?  And if it dies, then you might too? And then who will buy the milk and wash the underwear??

That’s when it happens.  You realize for the umpteenth time that “break” is not a vacation.  It is a break from routine.  And while maybe you need a day off here and there, a full two weeks of no routine is a special kind of hell for the person who works from home.

You love your children, but you can’t wait for them to go back to school.  (Not to mention your loving spouse, who is so much fun to have lunch with when it’s not leftovers in the kitchen full of things that need to be fixed and cleaned.) No one is excited about going back to the morning routine, especially in the depths of winter, but it is the gamut we work-from-home types must run to have our space to ourselves.

One day, about two weeks from now, you’ll kiss the wind-roughened cheeks of your children goodbye and watch them rustle off to school. You walk inside your home (your office, your sacred place), your mind on fire with projects.  Break is over and you have your space and your time back.  What will you make first?

When Too Many Projects Overwhelm

Fall, fall, we all fall into fall.

I am in a snarl of too many projects and can’t seem to find my way out.

The problem with too many projects is that nothing gets done. My projects are like reflections of my moods and whichever pulls me at the moment is the one that gets worked on. But when I have a lot of projects, it starts to feel narcissistic. Or like a form of multiple personality disorder. How do I feel RIGHT NOW? What project is the perfect match for my state of mine in this genuine moment? Which garment type? This stitch complexity? That color?

And when I catch myself tangled up with indecision that granular and, frankly, insignificant, that’s when the herd gets culled. It’s for my mental health after all. I want to work on my projects, not just think about them. I want the satisfaction of finishing in a reasonable amount of time.

Here’s a pic I posted to Instagram this weekend:
A photo of knitting works-in-progress

So here’s the list of things on the needle (which I have touched in the past month; never mind the things that are already back-burnered) — clockwise from top left if you like a visual, with links to Ravelry project pages if you want more info:

  • Gift socks for the holidays. I started a new pair of socks last week. I’m trying to work on it when the recipient isn’t home. By which I mean I’m trying to not work on it when the recipient is home. Those aren’t the same things.
  • A sock sample for Washtenaw Wool Co. in our half-stripe/half speckle dye application.
  • Sockathon #2, my neverending quest to knit up scrappy socks with leftover sock yarn. I still love working on this and it’s small enough that I almost always have it with me.
  • Cowl design, long overdue, half knit up.
  • Wheaten scarf in Briar Rose Fibers Glory Days, my impulse purchase at Northern Michigan Lamb & Wool Festival. This yarn is so delicious (100% BFL) and I have been wanting to knit this pattern for a long time.
  • Susanna IC’s Yarn Crawl Mystery Knit-a-long, from August/September. I’m about halfway done. I was really enjoying this project, but had to set it aside for some deadline knitting. It’s a relatively easy knit and the yarn—old Koigu KPPPM liberated from my sister’s stash—is delicious.
  • Flax sweater in Shepherd’s Wool, started for a class I was teaching. I screwed up the sleeve garter panel and need to rip and reknit the whole thing. Sigh.
  • Thrummed mittens for a class I’m teaching, pattern of my own devising. (Not pictured; don’t know where they’re at! Somewhere in the house.)

I am harsh at this point. No matter how many projects I am considering, I always narrow the list to two, one that takes concentration and one that doesn’t. With focus, things get done quickly — sometimes even just a day or two — and then I can get back to other items on the list. Or, with the distance of time, I’ll decide something isn’t working for me and I’ll rip it out (usually precipitated because I need the needles or the storage space).

I know which two projects it needs to be.

Busy Is Good

Just keep telling yourself that!

New Yarn

Photo of rainbow gradient yarnEarlier this year I launched a new business, Washtenaw Wool Company, with two friends, Michelle and Heather.  We’re having a blast, learning a lot, and watching this seed of an idea grow into something that suits all of our different skills perfectly.

It’s all very stimulating! We’ve been dyeing up yarn using unusual and sometimes time-consuming methods. We’ve been building our community of like-minded makers. This weekend we have a show, a local show luckily, and then we will hit the yarn design drawing board in earnest.  I. Can’t. Wait.  Local wool yarn, here I come!

New Design

I am aswim with design ideas and lack only for time to make them come alive.  I have socks, a pair of fingerless mitts, and at least two shawls partially written up. I’ve designed an entire shawl with the help of Miriam Felton’s Lace Shawl Design Craftsy class and the Stitchmastery software. Now I just need to knit it!  Ah, time, you fickle friend. Is this the point where designers find test knitters?

Photo of a knitting swatch.

New Skill

I’ve started teaching knitting classes at one of our local yarn stores and privately. Turns out, I really like to teach knitting!  I’ve been doing it for years informally, but I am finally embracing the idea that I have something to share with people who don’t know me.  I was a little worried before my first class because I did not enjoy teaching snarky freshman Composition at the community college.  So kudos to me for not letting that one terrible experience define my relationship to teaching in general.

New Words

As my writing time becomes more precious, I feel a visceral tug to connect pen to paper.  I am no nube; I know this feeling.  It means, “Write more. Something needs to come out.”

Spring this year is slow to arrive.  We had thunder and graupel (I learned that word today) this morning.  My dreams — mundane and not — continue apace, fed by the energy of busy creativity.

How has the transition between winter and spring been going for you? Please tell me in the comments below.

I Brioched and I Loved It

I made my dad a hat for his birthday.  He is not into bright colors and energetic motifs.  I could have knit him a very plain watch cap, but I settled on an idea to spice it up, for my own sanity (?).  What might appear to the untrained eye, a very simple hat, is, in fact, two color brioche in the round.  Wheeeeee!

Photo of two-color brioche knitting

I knit it in two colors of Happy Fuzzy Yarn American Worsted, “Shadow” and “Moss.”

Dad is not a cold-weather kind of person so gifts of warm clothes are always appreciated.

Picture of a man in a hat

OMG, I love this hat so much!

I need to make one for myself.  Doncha think?

Picture of a brioche hat

I used the Brioche Hat pattern from Weekend Knitting and sadly the directions for the crown decreases are confusing.  And this is NOT a reversible pattern, although you will be tempted to think it is until near the end.  That, I can live with, but I want to find a pattern with clearer directions for the crown.

So what’s a girl to do?  Nancy Marchant, the living expert, doesn’t appear to have a published pattern for a straight-forward two-color brioche watch cap.  Anyone have a pattern they’ve used to recommend?

What do you have a craving to cast on?

Spin the Rainbow

I can finally do an acceptable chain ply (aka navajo ply) without tying myself in knots as I become a human crochet hook.

This Kauni pencil roving, gifted to me by a friend,

Photo of Kauni pencil roving

became this chain ply:

Photo of chain-plied Kauni pencil roving

I got about 216 yards.  It’s probably worsted weight, but I never really know until I start knitting it up.

This yarn is a bit on the, um, strong side of the yarn-softness spectrum.  I have no idea what I’m going to make.  Maybe it will go into a colorwork yoke or become a slouchy hat or fabulous legwarmers.

What have you knit with gradient yarns?  Or what do you want to make with gradient yarns?