2014 and looking ahead

I just got back from a morning jog. The house is quiet, I’m the only one awake. I’ve opened the shades and windows and can hear my busy elderly neighbors hard at work to keep their dry Australian lawns alive and thriving.

This day has every promise of being a beautiful Perth summer one, and Lauren (my visiting friend from America) and I have morning beach plans.

On my run, my mind seemed to fixate on the idea of goal formation. As mentioned many times previously, I am a goal-oriented person. Ideas buzzed as I jogged along, and I contemplated what I want for 2014.

New Years is right around the corner, and I have already picked a resolution. In 2014, I want to complain less. Simply put, if I can’t say something nice, I’ll keep my thoughts to myself.

Image courtesy of weheartit

Image courtesy of weheartit

Though this will be a bit of a challenge, it isn’t enough. My mind just wants more. I want my personal 2014 to be about balancing the things I love. So my ultimate 2014 theme is: Read, Write, Sweat, Knit, everyday. It goes without saying that I want to make plenty of time for friends and loved ones, but as far as how I spend my “me” time, I want to make an effort to cover all of these things.

Lately I’ve been letting my writing and exercise slide a bit in favor of reading and knitting. I’ve still been exercising, but not as consistently, and it’s making me restless. Writing, well, that’s taken a definite backseat.

So whether it’s just a journal entry every night, a post-dinner walk with Matt, a quick chapter on my lunch break, or a couple of rows before bed, I plan to, in ways both great and small, make time for all the things I love everyday. A lofty goal yes, but I have a good feeling about 2014. What are your 2014 themes and resolutions?

The kind you find in a second-hand store

2013-Winner-Facebook-Cover

Big news y’all! I’ve had a busy few days, but on Friday I finished or “won” NaNoWriMo a day early at 50,233 words. My novel isn’t finished yet, but I hit the goal and am feeling proud. The fiancรฉ also succeeded, so we had celebratory brunch with friends this morning.

I’ve had quite a bit on the needles to share. First I am happy to say that I finished my “raspberry beret,” which I wore today at brunch.

This is an awesome free pattern which can be found HERE. I had a few knitting attacks while working on this, which made the process take probably twice as long as it should have. Hint: read the clarification on the Ravelry page before completing. Sigh.

Thanksgiving!

Pumpkin pie anyone?

Thursday night Matt and I went to Thanksgiving dinner at an American bar. I brought the pumpkin pie, which went over very well. We met some cool people and had a DELICIOUS meal.

Thanksgiving dinner

Thanksgiving dinner

On Friday I got in a shipment of yarn I’d ordered to make legwarmers for my sister. She picked out the color herself. It’s Cascade 220 in the Tutu shade. A bit pink for my taste, but I know she’ll love them.

Legwarmers for Rachel

Legwarmers for Rachel

I also finally picked up the last skein to finish off my Rocky Coast Cardigan. I wet-blocked it last night and it’s nearly dry. I had a mini panic thinking it might stretch out, but I laid it out flat in the measurements I wanted, and it seems to be snapping back into place nicely. Can’t wait for it to be dry so I can get a photo in it!

Rocky Coast Cardigan

Rocky Coast Cardigan

I made it out of Loyal 10ply, my favorite 100% wool New Zealand yarn. It comes in some amazing colors. My raspberry beret was also made out of Loyal.

Other than that I’ve been making a gift for someone, so that’s hush hush until it’s finished. Basically my fingers are exhausted! I knit up the legwarmers at lightening speed so I could get them in the package with my family’s Xmas gifts, which heads to the States tomorrow morning!

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 clichรฉ.

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.

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!

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?