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.

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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?