Another Harold on the needles

I have been itching to do some non-Christmas-related knitting so I can share what I’ve been up to on the blog. My Christmas present projects are heaps of fun, but I don’t want to give anything away. I finished my dad’s and my sister Rachel’s gifts. Mom’s is probably 35% done and Nora’s is past the halfway mark. I’m just waiting on more yarn to come in from my LYS.

I also finished a takeaway coffee cozy the other day for knits by emma. I whipped up a quick little design and finished it off while watching Gilmore Girls (my all-time favorite show).

Demonstrated on my wrist until I can get a cup

Demonstrated on my wrist

Two nights ago I cast on another Harold. It’s kind of a funny story.

So I purchased The Big Book of Knitted Monsters for my kindle probably a little over a month ago now. I haven’t had the “right needle sizes” to get anything started, but Rebecca Danger believes in working with what you’ve got, so I decided to just go for it and make it work for myself. Plus a monster is very season-appropriate.

I browsed carefully through every pattern in the book and hunted for photos of finished monsters on ravelry. Finally I decided to just start with the first monster in the book, since I eventually want to knit them all anyway. I was about halfway into the body, which I’m doing in stripes to use up some leftovers, when I realized I was making Harold the Houseplant Monster. I turned to Matt and exclaimed, Omigod! It’s another Harold! We had a giggle at the coincidence. The only other toy I’ve ever made was named by me: Harold Bartemius Hippo.

Harold 2 now has a body and is currently gaping and stuffed. I need to run to Spotlight and see if they have any eyes I can use for him before I close up the top. He will also get felt teeth.

I guess I should have realized he’d be HUGE since I’m using bulky yarn. I’ll keep tabs on my progress. I expect things to slow down a bit in the knitting department since NaNoWriMo starts TOMORROW. Happy Halloween everyone!

Finding the knit/life balance

In the US, people are always on about the work/life balance. Work can be so demanding and all-consuming that they have to remind themselves to slow down and make time for the good things in life.

Australia is different. Here, I’ve never heard anyone complain that work is so intense that they don’t have time to eat/sleep/socialize, etc. People here seem to have more of a handle on leaving work at the office. Of course I can only speak for Perth, but this sort of relaxed and casual attitude seems to be an Aussie thing in general. And I think it’s great.

What I am having is a crisis of knit/life balance. Lately I’ve been so consumed by my knitting habit obsession that I’m letting other things slide. I still work hard when I’m at the office of course, but my free time is being bogarted by my need to knit.

I listen to all these podcasters talk about all the projects they have in the works, and I just wonder how they make quality time for their families between all the knitting, quilting and spinning they’re doing. I feel inadequate by comparison, knowing that I’ve been neglecting those around me in a haze of yarn.

I need to figure out how to fit knitting in with the other things I love. I haven’t been reading everyday, which is unheard of in my world. I’ve even been exercising less (including yoga). I stay up late clicking away at the needles and then I’m exhausted in the morning.

Normally I’d be reading on the bus and on my lunch break, I’d do a daily workout of one kind or another, and I’d spend time with Matt and do some writing in the evenings. So where does knitting fit in?

2013-Participant-Twitter-Header

My plan for this year was always to participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), where aspiring novelists write 50,000 words in a month. I recently decided I just wouldn’t have the time. But why not?

It’s October 17th, giving me around two weeks to prepare. Even if I fail to reach the 50,000 word mark, I think this is a commitment I need to make. It’s been bothering me ever since I declared I couldn’t do it. There will be time to knit. There will be time to read and to spend with Matt. My writing deserves this, and who am I to deny it?

So this week is now about figuring out how to make time for all the things I love. Wish me luck!

Attack of the yarn monster

Lately I’ve been listening to The Knitmore Girls podcast. They are a mother-daughter team who post a new episode every week. There are around 250 episodes to date, so it’s been fun slowly catching up on years of knitting stories with them. I’m still listening to podcasts to and from work, on my lunch break, and sometimes while I knit in the evenings. Gigi and Jasmin break their episodes into familiar segments, and my favorite is When knitting attacks!

It’s great to hear about the struggles of other knitters. I find I learn a lot from segments like these in this and in other podcasts. It’s nice to know even the best knitters run into trouble just like the rest of us. Plus there’s the small mercy that this horror isn’t currently befalling you.

I was victim of a knit attack last night, but first I’ll set the scene for you. Yesterday afternoon my four lovely skeins of Malabrigo sock finally came in the mail at the office and I was THRILLED. (I say “finally,” when in reality it only took a week.) Purlwise even included a gorgeous little sample of Cascade silk in a lovely orange-peachy color. I have to say I was tickled.

When I got home I finished the hexipuff I’d been working on during the bus ride. Matt and I heated up leftovers from the night before and then I pulled out my beautiful skeins to admire and show him. We agreed on a favorite, and I resolved to wind up each ball before finishing Harold.

Harold just needs a face!

Harold just needs a face!

Little did I know I wouldn’t get past the first skein. I carefully removed the string and tag holding it together and located the end. My plan was to untwist the skein and hang it from my arm as I quickly balled it up.

Well that escalated quickly

Well that escalated quickly

I swear, within SECONDS, it was a crazy tangled mess. Plenty of it was hanging dutifully from my arm, but mostly it just went EVERYWHERE. I couldn’t believe it. Yet I somehow remained calm, mesmerized by my attraction to this gorgeous yarn.

Yards and yards to go

Yards and yards to go

This lovely skein of thin strong sock weight yarn is a whopping 440 yards long. Needless to say I was winding all night. About an hour in, Super-Size Me came on. I’d never seen it, so it was a good distraction as I weaved my growing yarn ball through the tangles.

Yarn monster! Run for your lives!

Yarn monster! Run for your lives!

The yarn monster remained sizable as I made slow and steady progress. The movie finished, and by the time I went to bed, Matt and I estimated that I’d spent about three and a half hours on it so far. I say “so far” because sadly, it’s not over. At one point I did come across the other end and got started on a ball from it.

One night's progress

One night’s progress

The night time lighting in our living room isn’t great, but when it’s finally all balled up I’ll try to get a good shot of the color. It’s just beautiful. Amazingly I only got frustrated when it was time to admit defeat and go to bed. I knew I wouldn’t want to wake up to this thing this morning.

Alas, the yarn monster is still waiting patiently for me in my office (the second bedroom). Matt just kept shaking his head at me in sympathy last night. Poor guy’s going to have to watch me suffer for a few more hours I’d imagine.

With the three remaining skeins, I OF COURSE am going to consult the gurus at my local yarn store and hope they have advice. I’m really hoping they’ll just wind it for me, so cross your fingers!

Poor Harold. Guy just wants a face and some ends woven in.

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 fiancรฉ 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 yourย flow?

If at first you don’t succeed, just go to bed

There are two types of people in this world: morning people, and night people.

If you ask most people, I’m sure they would say, “Oh, I’m not a morning person.” To this statement, many nod in recognition, declaring war on anyone and anything that would deprive them of a little extra shut-eye in the early AM hours.

Then there are people like me, who basically stop functioning around 10:30pm (sometimes earlier). One reason for this is that I am accustomed to getting up early to fit in my workout before I head the office, usually seated at my desk by 8 o’clock. Another is that I am a slave to the sun. Even on weekend mornings, the blaring light through my bedroom curtains tells me it’s time to get up by 7:15 at the latest.

That being said, I am also at my most clear-minded and productive between about 7:15 and 10am. Fortunately for my employer, this mostly falls while I’m at work. Unfortunately for my knitting, my free time usually lands in the late evenings.

Last night I fell prey to my own stubbornness, as 11pm came and went while I refused to set down my knitting. I reached the row that I had deemed would contain two buttonholes. Now, I’ve learned to do buttonholes in the past, but I have not applied them much in my own knitting, and that fact combined with the late hour was a recipe for disaster.

This was a beautiful cream merino headband, and the third I had made this weekend as samples for my knits by emma line. Before I go any further I just want to say I have found yarn love. I have heard others express love for yarn, but I had yet to truly experience it myself. For my line of headbands, I will be using exclusively Australian 100% chunky merino by Heirloom. The best part is it’s apparently machine washable (though I still need to test them). Here’s a little preview for you, lovely blog readers.

New headbands in Moss and Slate

New headbands in Moss and Slate

Last night I just couldn’t seem to calculate the spacing and number of seams for my buttonholes. I don’t know what was with me, but it was as if I was too sleepy and frustrated to get it right. Every time I failed to make them look as perfect as I wanted, I ripped back about 4 or 5 rows, re-knit to my place, and tried again. (Thankfully my beautiful Australian merino is so durable, that there is no visible evidence of how much I reworked the final section of this headband.)

Eventually my poor fiancรฉ begged me to give up and resume in the morning. By the time he’d protested for the third time, I conceded it was time to throw in the towel and go to sleep. All day at work I itched to get home and try again. This afternoon I got it on the first try, and proceeded to “try on” my knitting in front of the mirror.

After all of that effort, heartache and lost sleep…I like it better without the buttons! I ended up ripping back AGAIN and finishing it off with a mattress stitch. I will probably try it with a provisional cast on and kitchener next time just to see which way looks better for the pattern. There’s a little sneak peak of the finished product in my instagram over on the sidebar, for anyone who wants to check it out. It’s amazing how such a simple headband can cause so many problems. Thankfully I love the end result!