So-called “selfish” knitting

DISCLAIMER: I disagree that knitting for yourself is, in any way, selfish.

NaNoWriMo ends in 10 days, which has got Matt and I both a little frantic. Though that’s probably also due to lack of a good night’s sleep in over a month.

Even so, I am using precious writing energy juices to challenge this idea of “selfish knitting” that seems to be cropping up everywhere. I’m not sure how it started, but I’ve heard about it both on The Knitmore Girls and Knit Knit Cafe. From what I remember, it sounds like the original idea was proposed as a “good” thing. As in, we should take the time to do some “selfish knitting” during the crazy holiday season. Both the Knitmores and Abby of KKC found this term to be offensive, and so do I.

Last night I finally finished my mom’s Christmas present, which was the last of the items I’m making for the holidays. Once they’ve opened them, I promise to post photos, but for now it must remain a surprise for my parents and sisters. It was a relief to finish it, as it had taken me longer than expected, and I felt an overwhelming urge to immediately cast on something for myself.

Listening to Abby get so worked up today made me feel inclined to share my thoughts on the matter. It takes time and money to finish a knitted item. I love making gifts for other people, but it can also get exhausting, often because I’m the kind of person to put a lot of pressure on myself. Many experienced knitters stop knitting for others, knowing that more often than not gifts that have taken hours to make will not be properly appreciated or cared for.

I think that’s part of why I’m enjoying my Rock Coast cardigan so much. I’ve run out of yarn at the moment, so I need to wait until the weekend to stock up and get back to it, but I’ve finished the body and one sleeve.

Rocky Coast Cardigan in progress

Rocky Coast Cardigan in progress

Last night I did a little writing, and then wound up a skein of Malabrigo sock in the Solis colorway, to be combined with my already wound Ivy ball to create a Daybreak shawl for myself.

For my Daybreak

For my Daybreak

What I’ve realized in the process of making so many items for others lately (with many projects for friends and one for my sister still on order), is that I don’t mind as long as I simultaneously have a project on the needles for myself that I really enjoy.

I read this article today (23 things women should stop doing), and I think this all ties into the same thing. Why is it that when women do something for themselves, it’s considered selfish?

It’s not even a men vs. women thing, it’s a society vs. women thing. We perpetuate this idea that women should be selfless all of the time, conditioning which starts practically from birth. “Boys will be boys” aka “boys can do whatever they like all of the time with no regard for consequences” is a terrible cliché.

I say do things for yourself, whether it’s crafting, taking time to spend on your own, or just a bit of R&R, YOU ARE NOT SELFISH, you’re human and it’s healthy.

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Music as motivation

It’s crazy to think it’s only been two months since I ran my first marathon. It feels like a lifetime ago.

Since my training ended, I’ve been having fun getting back into classes at the gym, doing yoga, and going for long walks with Matt. I’ve even been able to start riding my bike to work again on days the rain chooses to subside.

It’s been an unusually long winter in Perth, with the rain lasting late in October, when normally we’d enjoy a beautifully sunny spring. Between early morning wind and storms, knitting into the wee hours, and my busy gym and work schedule, I have let my early morning run routine fall to the wayside. ENTER: Music and sunshine.

She's called Joni. Get it?

She’s called Joni. Get it?

Ever since I was in college, I would always get motivated to run when I heard a great new song at a party or on the radio. I love a good beat, and although I hardly listen to the radio these days, (it’s all podcasts all the time, especially in the car – at least until the new Arcade Fire comes out this week!!) I am still exposed to good running jams every now and then.

Personally I think music – even more than friends – is the best motivator for both running and doing chores. If I can dance while mopping, all the better. This morning I decided that rather than waiting all the way to 9:15 for Body Attack at the gym (I’m an earlier riser, we’ve established this), I would go for a run. It was time to revamp my running mix with a few tunes I’ve been loving lately. Feel free to judge, I am not ashamed.

New on my playlist

1. The Wire by Haim – check out the video too, I absolutely LOVE this song. It’s not quite the usual fast beat I like to run to, but I like it so much it doesn’t matter.

2. Talk Dirty to Me by Jason DeRulo – heard this one again a few weekends ago when out dancing with friends. Certainly not family friendly, but a GREAT beat.

3. Classic by MKTO – again, judge if you will. It’s catchy

Oldies but goodies currently on my mix

1. Let’s Groove by Earth Wind and Fire – YES.

2. She Drives me Crazy by Fine Young Cannibals – great jam, totally classic.

3. Sussudio by Phil Collins – if you know me at all, you know that I LOVE Phil.

4. Dancing with Myself by Billy Idol – this has a perfect beat for running, as does…

5. Super Freak by Rick James

6. Video Killed the Radio Star by The Buggles – can’t go wrong with this one

7. Sleepyhead by Passion Pit – it’s the perfect first song on a running mix

8. Pompeii by Bastille – not exactly an oldie, but it’s been a favorite for awhile

9. 867-5309 (Jenny) by Tommy Tutone – makes me laugh

10. Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here by Deborah Cox – great motivator and great to dance to

I could go on and on, but these suggestions are more than enough to get you started. What songs are staples on your workout/cleaning playlists? I’m always open to ideas (though if you say Taylor Swift, FRIENDSHIP OVER).

The little tweaks keep crafting fun!

Hi readers! It’s the Monday night of a three-day weekend and I have to say I’m feeling refreshed and rejuvenated after a good weekend of fun, friends, quality time with my man, and of course plenty of knitting.

A new cable, a new copper beauty

A new cable, a new copper beauty

I finished this new headband design for the shop in a beautiful copper shade, and wore one of my other headbands out on Saturday night for a bit of casual promotion while catching up with mates. Since it picked up a hint of “pub” smell, I had a great excuse to test the yarn for machine wash-ability. It came out of the machine completely intact and even softer than it went in!

I also played around with some ideas for an upcoming craft blogging event in which I have been kindly invited to participate (won’t give too much away just yet).

Today after a good gym session I spent most of the day just adding potential patterns to my Ravelry queue. I must have been living under a rock because I haven’t really gotten into the site until the last month or so. The long weekend gave me the time to actually browse through patterns properly. Any knitters not already on the site should join immediately. It’s such a great source for patterns, advice, ideas, yarn reviews and to see what other knitters are up to.

I was keen to try something a bit more fun this evening, so I landed on the Kimono Slippers. This was a great, simple little project that I could tell would be super quick and give me a great chance to dip into some stash yarn. I ended up using Panda Tempo 100% acrylic (I’m not exactly a fiber snob, and this yarn happens to be very pretty and soft) which I bought on sale for $3/skein some time ago.

Kimono Slipper prior to stitching up

Kimono Slipper prior to stitching up

As you can see, these slippers are worked flat, which is great for a quick project. I didn’t bother with gauge or even using the recommended needle size. I just went for it and made sure to sew it up well.

One down, one to go

One down, one to go

I finished one slipper tonight while Matt kindly cooked up our steak dinner. I was in the knitting zone. After dinner I sewed up the edges according to the instructions. I think this one is actually meant to be the left slipper, but it feels more comfortable on my right foot, so I’ve just gone with that. I was ready for a break, so I resolved to make its partner later in the week.

However after leaving it be for about 10 minutes, I decided it just wasn’t right. It needed a bit of an embellishment before I’d really be satisfied with it. And so…

Garter stitch strap with button hole to the rescue!

Garter stitch strap with button hole to the rescue!

I thought it would make a nice touch to knit up a quick garter stitch strap and add a button to make it a bit more exciting. Matt agrees that it looks heaps better, and I’m pretty happy with it too. The strap is also functional, as it’ll keep my foot from slipping out. It’s great to take the framework of an existing pattern and spruce it up using your own knowledge. This is definitely one of my favorite things about crafting.

I made the smallest size as my feet aren’t all that big, but I could maybe have gone medium. In any event this slipper is easy to “try on” while you’re stitching it up to ensure it will fit. I still have plenty of yarn on the skein as well, so hopefully I can get a second slipper out of it without having to break into another.

Booty from below

Booty from below

These acrylic slippers are great for the Australian climate, since they protect my bare feet from the chilly floors, but also won’t make me overheat in the warmer months. If you want something really cozy, I’d go for wool.

For the strap, I cast on 6 stitches, working a garter stitch pattern (knitting every row) and creating a button hole three stitches wide a few rows before the end (there are heaps of great buttonhole tutorials out there, it can be tricky the first few times). My advice for this whole project (including the strap) is to slip the first stitch of every row (knitwise or purlwise appropriately) to keep the edges nice and clean.

I encourage everyone to take chances in your crafting. You never know what sort of touch ups might just add a little personal flair to your project. Plus it’s great to use extra supplies that are just lying around your craft space. I have a whole bag of buttons just waiting for opportunities like this.

Always carry a pen

I’m sure the other writers out there subscribe to this motto as loyally as I do. To be caught without a pen is absolute suicide. You never know when inspiration will hit, you never know when a networking opportunity will strike. Won’t you feel foolish meeting a key player in your industry and not being able to offer a pen when he/she inevitably isn’t carrying a business card. How else will you get that elusive contact information?

It also isn’t a bad thing to be the first to proffer a writing utensil every time the “Does anyone have a pen?” scenario occurs. It will make you look organized and professional, whether you feel it on the inside or not.

But who knew that having a pen could be crucial to solving a knitter’s dilemma? As I’ve mentioned before, I am completely enamored with cables. I love cabling in my knitting; I think the effect is just stunning. Yesterday morning I decided to have a crack at knitting on the bus during my commute. Lately I’ve been listening to podcasts on the bus, as I am someone who feels easily queasy when trying to read. I LOVE to read, and still attempt to do so nearly everyday. But often I don’t make it all the way to the city before the dizziness sets in.

So there I am, all the way at the back of the bus so I can spread out a little. I take my needles and headband-in-progress out of my bag, when FACEPALM. In a “could have had a V8” sort of moment, I realized I hadn’t brought my circular needle (my alternative to a cable needle). However would I work the cables efficiently? I knit one cable without a needle, but it was so slow and tedious with the rumbling of the bus, that I quickly gave up, resolving to solve this issue later at the office.

Enter: The trusty pen. Before we’d even reached the city, a light bulb went on. Of course!  I thought.

Pen cap to the rescue

Pen cap to the rescue

So I gift to you all, in my infinite wisdom, another handy cable cheat: the pen cap. When I got to the office, I finished working the row I had been in the middle of, before setting it down to begin my work day. I hate leaving knitting open in the middle of a row. It would have just eaten away at me until lunchtime.

Surfer's Paradise in progress

Work in progress

So while I wasn’t at a logical stopping point, at least I had finished the row. I proceeded to use the pen cap while knitting on my lunch break as well. Just goes to show, there are myriad reasons why you should always carry a pen.

The back of the finished headband

The back of the finished headband

Just as a sort of P.S. I thought I’d include an image of the finished product from the back. A provisional cast on leaves the live stitches on either side. Using kitchener stitch, you can graft the two ends together in a clean and nearly invisible manner. My advice: when picking up live stitches that have been twisted and cabled, TAKE YOUR TIME. Stay focused and pay close attention. Also, of course, count your stitches so you know that there is an equal number on each end. When done properly, it can turn out so wonderful. I’m really pleased with how this turned out, and you can’t even tell where the two ends meet without very close inspection (and a keen knitter’s eye). Plus the lighting in this last photo captures the true color much better than the overexposed lighting in my office. Let me know if you try this method and run into trouble. I use provisional cast on and kitchener for most of my headbands.

What to do when crafting gets you down

Picture this: You’re home after a long day, compounded with the fact that it’s been a long week and it’s not even Friday yet. You can’t wait to get in PJs and settle into some warm and fuzzy crafty goodness. Before long, nothing is working out the way you planned. You become frustrated, tired, and just plain over it. What do you do? You don’t want to waste this prime opportunity to be creative, but nothing is going right.

This was me last night my friends. I wanted to knit. In fact, I’d been longing to knit all day. I still need to pump out a few headband samples so I can get them on models and take photos. There is one design that I started the other day, but ended up ripping out when it proved a bit thin. Last night I started over using the same pattern, but on slightly larger needles. This left gaping holes where the cabling occurred, so I produced a heavy sigh and ripped out to start over.

Next I decided to take a break from that design and make something new. I have a few headbands floating around in my mind, but I have yet to actually sit down and work out a stitch count. I must have tried to work out about three different patterns to no avail. I was much too frustrated to take the time and work it out properly.

My fiancé could hear me getting frustrated with every dramatic ripping out of my projects. He prodded, asking what was wrong and if there was anything he could do. He was kind enough to spare me the logical suggestion of just setting down my work and taking a breather.

It was getting late, so eventually I had to rip out yet again and go bring the laundry in off the clothesline and cook dinner. I was feeling depressed, so I let him keep playing video games, rather than asking for help in the kitchen. Normally I love cooking together. It gives us a great chance to catch up on our days and it makes the process go faster when we’re really not in the mood to be stuck in the kitchen. But at that point, I just needed some time to myself to regroup.

After the quiches were safely in the oven, I came back into the living room to try one more option. This was the original design from the other day, with an extra cable. I thought these extra stitches on the original smaller needles would make it wide enough without creating gaps when stretched over a person’s head. So I did one (almost) final cast on and got to work.

Amazingly, the short pause was enough to keep me sane. Even when I had done a few rows of only 22 stitches when I needed 23, I had peace of mind, and dutifully ripped out and cast on again. This time it was project success!

I think that is what gets me down sometimes during frustrating knitting sessions. I don’t mind the ripping out and starting over, it’s the cast on that makes me insane. Especially a provisional cast on. I ended up needing to get out new provisional yarn after overworking my original crochet chain in the myriad other cast ons throughout the evening. (A provisional cast on knits into a crochet chain to create “live” stitches making it cleaner to graft the two ends together when a project is finished. It works great with headbands and infinity scarves or cowls.)

Now the headband is looking even better than I could have imagined. I still wish I could have finished it last night, but I’m glad that I took a break and got perspective rather than giving up completely.

So I say when crafting, writing or general creating has you banging your head against the wall, don’t give up. Just take a short break and come back with a clear mind. Last night I considered just giving up and watching TV or working on hexipuffs instead, but I knew I wanted to make progress on my headbands.

As a writer, I know I should be applying this same strategy. Lately I haven’t been in the mood to devote the necessary energy to my fiction writing. But I really just need to sit down and get to it, taking pause when I really need it, and coming back revitalized.

For all you creators out there, I would love to hear your stories of when you got stuck and how you dealt with it. With so little precious time for being creative amidst life’s many challenges and demands, how do you find peace and time for your activity of choice? How do you find your flow?