Sunday, May 31, 2009

Got Passion?

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I'm not referring to the bedroom. Passion means love of life or the desire to find perfection. One can be passionate about a hobby, their work, a belief or a cause. I see snippets of passion, but overall there is a definite lack of passion around me. Pardon my vagueness (and its deliberate), but surely there must be more to life than just the stuff we own or the places we visit.

Throughout my life, I've encountered passionate individuals: a teacher, a friend, a colleague and even a stranger. Perhaps it was their determination, dedication, hope or even just their work ethic. Something about that person inspired me to do more and to be better--and to hope. Where are those passionate people?

Where does commitment, determination, dedication, and work ethic reside? Is it just me or do most people these days lack such qualities? My parents always taught me that no matter what I did (whether it was running a large corporation or scrubbing a lowly toilet), I should give 100% and do the best possible job. The worth is not in the job itself, but in how the job is performed.

For me, I always believed that if I did what I loved, my satisfaction would be great. Yes there would still be frustrations and challenges. Nothing--and I mean NOTHING--is truly perfect, but you can experience moments of perfection. With determination, I could problem-solve for solutions and seek out improvements. And perhaps with enough perseverance and hard work, I could experience that magical state of perfection when "it" all comes together.

Maybe what I'm really referring to is vocation, but not in the religious sense (although it could be spiritual, says the lapsed Catholic inside my head). Throughout most of my life, I felt as if my vocation was to be a teacher and a parent. Don't ask me how I knew. I just did. I question the vocation and/or passion of those around me. Lots of zombies and dead-weights drift in and out. Not enough passion.

The problem with zombies and dead-weights is that they zap your lifeforce. All your energy and zest gets drained. You can only bang your head against the wall so many times before you become a zombie too! Is there a cure?

Got passion?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Faster Knitter, Knit Faster

Dear knitting gods,

Hear my pleas (and speed is of the essence): help me knit faster!

If I were faster, I could make more stuff. And I could wear my finished item in the season it was meant to be worn. No more finished sweaters in summer or completed tanks in winter.

Right now it takes me two weeks to complete one sock; one weekend to make a child-size hat; one month to make a child-size sweater (and that's if I'm giving her all I've got!). Let's not talk about some of my other projects that have languished in the work-in-progress pile (I won't even mention the sweater that took 10 years to see completion--10 years! I kid you not).

Part of my problem is the finishing. I love the actual process of knitting--the simple physical act of pulling loop through loop, hearing the clickety-clack of those metal needless . . . it's pure bliss. The sewing of seams and weaving of ends, on the other hand, zaps all motivation (suffice to say its knitter mojo killer).

My other problem is my need to be perfect. I don't want to make mistakes (like missing increases or decreases, messing up a pattern or dropping stitches). So I carefully write out steps for my addled brain, and count and re-count stitches to make sure I haven't skipped anything.

So please great knitting gods, for the love of all that is soft and colourful and full of fibre goodness, bestow upon me the gift of speed. Make me knit faster--and please hurry! :O

Saturday, May 23, 2009

My Little Patch

So after much neglect, my little patch needed a little "pick-me-up". There was a lot of work to be done. The dandelions had already taken root. Everyone calls them weeds and they are persistant, but I truly do like dandelions (I swear! Besides my toddlers love them. A two-year-old can't be wrong, LOL). Is a rose still not a rose by any other name? Dandelions are still flowers, albeit wild ones and often times unwanted (Who made that rule anyways? I wouldn't want dandelions in my veggie patch, but in the lawn . . . why poison your environment with herbicides? Besides, ever notice that those big fat bumble bees love dandelions . . . . Okay, I'll get off my soapbox now).

With the little patch by the front step cleared, I have to think about plants. A trip to a gardening center should give me some ideas. Some flowering perennials would be nice.

The front flower bed (above) didn't look too bad, but my rock wall was falling in places. Some of my perennials were getting a little over-grown (bleeding hearts, forget-me-knots, hostas, a pair of columbines, lilies of the valley and some other colourful plants I don't recall). My poor dogwoods haven't even filled in completely yet. In my neck of the woods, there's a danger of frost well into the end of May.

The right tools I may be lacking, but I had loads of "gumption" today--partly spurred on by Environment Canada's weather forecast for tomorrow: rain all day ! Ugh! (And I've got a BBQ to go to too **sigh**). Needless to say, I wasn't taking any chances. That rock wall was getting done today.

Despite taking all of 2 hours, it was time well-spent. Besides, I had fun puttering 'round nature, watching the sow bugs scatter (and I didn't even flinch when the millipedes ran for cover). The rock wall is right purty. All is neat and tidy again. I'll need another weekend to add good topsoil and some pretty annuals (or perhaps another perennial? So hard to find something that likes damp, shady spots).

Time to get the laundry from the clothesline and maybe afterwards, some knitting . . . ? Ahhh, my poor knittting . . . **sigh**

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Addictions and Compulsions (or the Internet Blues)

Our internet connection went down last night. Needless to say, we--hubby and I both--were so disappointed. We've become so dependent on cyberspace for so many things: e-mailing, downloading, catching up on news, playing on Facebook and getting lost on Ravelry (well, the latter is just me, but you get the picture). Hopeless addicts!

And I was so psyched to update the blog too. With blogging, I'm always thinking of the next post: I write notes in my handy-dandy notebook for possible topics; I experiment with my camera so I can take better pictures; learn what I can about successful bloggers; and . . . um . . . try to be more courageous and diligent in my knitting (of course!). I suppose I should have done more knitting last night (hee, hee--ooops) . . .

Speaking of knitting, I finished my short-sleeved cardi with ribbing last night. Yay for me (never mind that it has long sleeves and the ribbing is gone). It's a little big, but very comfy and so very warm (hard to believe I was happy about the cool weather). I even got a few compliments **blushes**

Do you recall my aspirations for lace? Remember my bamboo orders from Elann and Mary Maxim? Needless to say that my first forary into the world of lace was not quite successful. I had too rrrippp, rip, rip **gasp** I was ready to give up. My yarnovers were messed up! How could I mess up YO's? After a few days of humming and hawing, I made some changes: instead of metal needles I changed to bamboo ones; instead of fingering weight bamboo, I switched to the DK weight of Paton's Silk Bamboo. What do you think? Nice, eh? I'm so proud of myself. Perseverance paid off.

The Silk Bamboo is awesome stuff! Very soft and silky. I should be using 4.0mm needles, but I could only find 5.0mm bamboo ones, so I guess the lace will be more "holey" (but it's lace, so holey is good). The scarf will still be wide despite me reducing the number of cast-on stitches. I can't imagine how much it might grow in blocking (Eeek! That'll be a new adventure as I've never blocked before)

Clickety-clack, clickety-clack. Onward knitter, stay on track.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

My Little Beans

So forlorn, the delicate little bean looking out at the falling rain . . . a simple classroom project incited such pride in my youngest. Hoping his little plant would grow some beans, he carefully watched over it (and it does now sport what appear to be little buds that will grow into teeny, tiny beans).
I watch over my little beans too. They grow up so fast. In amazement, I wonder where the time has gone. . .

Maybe I'm just feeling a little nostalgic . . .

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Rrrrip, Rip, Rip . . .

See the beginning of my pretty sweater. It's a great free online pattern called Sprout from Amy King (I think I've linked her blog in one of my sidebars). I'm so excited! I love, love, love the bright blue. I wanted a summery cardi to wear for cool mornings. And the Red Heart Cotton Twist feels so nice in my hands (nothing at all like worsted cotton).

This cardi marks a new beginning in my knitterly life: it represents my first attempt at cables (my very first ever in my entire life)! Cabling is one of those skills I've wanted to master--or at the very least try. Cognitively I understood the concept and procedure; actually performing the process with yarn and needles was a whole different thing. A little fear of failure always held me back until . . . actually I'm not sure what finally compelled me to try. But now I'm making cables! I just can't seem to contain my joy (happy, happy, joy, joy)!

I was feeling rather pleased with myself until I discovered the pattern had short rows (so the back area below the collar would sit better on the body). I've only done short rows once before in the bust area of a tank top. At the time, I had re-played an online video over and over to get the "hang of it" (Thank heavens for What an excellent resource--lots of good videos with clear explanations). That first attempt had been passable, so I thought I knew what I was doing--the key word being "thought". Feeling somewhat cocky, I proceeded with the short-rows without a video to reference (why are short rows called wrap-and-turn? There's no wrapping unless you've turned your work first. Shouldn't it be "turn-and-wrap"?). Then it was time to pick up the wraps :O

Needless to say I messed up--well, perhaps not too badly. One side looked fine (where I picked up the wraps on the knit side), but I made a mess on the other side. The wraps were quite visible on the right side. I was gonna let it go and continue on. After all, who was gonna notice? My hair would probably cover up the enitre mess. Still, those damn wraps kept taunting me (I swear there was name-calling involved). The mess had to go!

So I inserted a smaller sized circular through the row before the W & T mess and unravelled. Unravelling can leave you in one of two moods: either tense and nervous about the whole experience (as if you are committing some horrible crime), OR relieved in catharsis as if you've unloaded an awesome burden from your shoulders. I felt cathartic--no more taunting from those rude, rude wraps!

Back at square one. Still, what had I lost really? Maybe an hour of my time. Before I went to bed that night, I had re-knit the area with the short rows. Needless to say my second attempt was more acceptable.
Onward, knitter. Onward.
Clickety-clack go the needles . . .

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Lullabys and Dreams

I should have been knitting at naptime (there was a sock calling me, waiting for some attention, hoping to get longer . . . ). But I was compelled to sit there in the dark with the soft sounds of a lullaby playing over the rhythmic whir of a fan. Naptime. Quiet time. All those little babes asleep. Each and every little angel is somebody's baby--not always perfect, but lovable just the same. A little person.

If only I could have laid down to close my eyes too, if only to join them briefly in slumber . . . alas, I could not.

So, breathe deeply.

Listen to the white noise.

Peacefully content.

Quiet contemplation.

Lost in a moment, in a thought . . .

Stop to enjoy the silent interlude.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

Hope the sun shined for you today. It did in my part of the world briefly before pounding rains fell upon the earth--the first thunder storm of the season (it was a mad dash to save the laundry before the downpour and it was almost dry too).

My fears and doubts over lace abated when I plunged in and cast on. What's with the blue yarn? Well, its baby acrylic (from Phentax I think) and no, its not what I'll use for the gift scarf. What better way to test a pattern than to actually try it out on some scrap yarn? Once I managed to get through an entire repeat, I knew I could make the lace.

Well, let me rephrase that: I THOUGHT I knew what I was doing. I cast on using the Elann Pure Bamboo. Since I didn't have wooden or bamboo needles, I used aluminum needles. The garter edging progressed nicely until I got to the yarn-overs. I'm not sure what happened. I thought I was wrapping the yarn the correct way . . . I messed up and then ripped out--gggrrrrrrr! I think I'll have to pop into Walmart and look for bamboo circular needles (what are the odds they'll have the size needle I need? Hmmmmm). My other option is to forget the Pure Bamboo and use the Elann Bamboo Fusion instead. I think its a DK weight and I might have more luck with that than fingering weight. I've also got the Paton's Silk-Bamboo and Angora Bamboo which are also DK or worsted weight . . . I've got to mull it over.

At least I did one thing right: I finished one sock. My modifications were a success! It fit my son's foot perfectly. I thought the sock might be too snug at the toes, but it fit well (the boy has wide feet). Thankfully I took detailed notes and I've already cast on for the second sock. In two weeks, my boy will have a complete pair.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Just a Little Scared?

My second order arrived today! More bamboo and some alpaca too. I also got some superwash wool just to swatch. How else can I find out about new fibres unless I play with them? When I figure out what project fits the yarn, I can order whatever number of skeins I need.

Ravelry is great for this kind of search. Just type in the brand name or specific yarn, then see what other knitters (or crocheters) have made. Guess what I found? Lots of lace scarves made from bamboo--very pretty, delicate looking. And challenging . . . perhaps too challenging? My enthusiasm for something new is fading as doubt rears its little head . . . . safe to say I'm feeling just a wee bit nervous about lace.
Is there such an animal as "easy lace"? There's gotta be, right? Back to Ravelry to search some more.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Oh Joy!

Tired and hungry after a long day at work, I went through my front door and found a pleasant surprise. A small package of happiness awaited me. One of my online orders had arrived! Oh joy!

Very gingerly, I ripped apart the packaging and found these three soft and silky yarns. And surprisingly there is not a bit of acrylic in them! Only the Silk Bamboo actually has silk in it; the other two are primarily bamboo mixed with wool (along with angora for Angora Bamboo).
Now I'm a die-hard acrylic girl through and through, but I have been curious to try bamboo for ages. And these yarns were so affordable. I just had to see for myself; I had to try them out on the needles to get a "feel" for them.
I'd like to work up a few swatches in some easy lace patterns. I would absolutely love to make a couple of lacy scarves for two important women in my life. I think they would appreciate the hand-crafted gifts. I'm hoping the items could be Christmas presents (I know: it's barely May and I'm thinking of Santa and Rudolph, but I'm slow--soooo very, very slow).
Hope my other order arrives tomorrow!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Clearing Away Winter

After my low-key birthday celebrations, hubby and I decided to clean away all the winter debris from our deck. The shining sun and warmth spurred us on: I moved garbage cans, broken toys, a broken table and a dried up Christmas wreath while hubby cleaned off his barbecue (see the pic above? Wish I had taken a "before" shot, but the photographic evidence of my messy and disorganized ways would have been too shameful--and I couldn't have that).

See the sweater I'm modeling. Remember the frogging of last week (or was it 2 weeks ago)? My Short-Sleeved Cardi with Ribbing no longer has ribbing (and of course it was never short-sleeved). I re-worked the bottom portion in plain stockinette to the length specified in the schematic (approx 23-24 inches). When I compared it to another cardigan in my closet, the length seemed just right. The sleeves were a dilemma: I struggled over whether to keep the ribbing or frog those too. After a few try-on's, I decided to leave the sleeves. All in all, it's not bad. At this point, I just want to finish this project because (a) it's been on the needles a long time and (b) I really wanna wear it before summer finally arrives. Only the button bands need to be worked. I'm hoping to start those this evening after a nice BBQ supper--the first one is always the tastiest!

So, what has this entire experience taught me? A lot.
  • Consider negative ease (it can be your friend)

  • Compare your WIP to the schematic measurements

  • Its okay to frog (I learned that from the Yarn Harlot)

  • No one will arrest you if you re-work the pattern to suit your needs (its called "modifications")

  • Remember that I'm still a fat girl and some design elements don't always work well on the pleasantly plump

  • And I'm not as fat as I think I am

Friday, May 1, 2009

Happy Birthday!

"Happy Birthday to me! Happy Birthday to me . . . . "

I wasn't expecting anything from dear ole hubby, except maybe a card from him and the boys. After all, I'd just ordered myself some birthday yarn online (It was my first online order--yay for me! I would sooo love to have a LYS in town. **sniff, sniff** Guess its the downside to living in a small town).

Happily I was surprised as I walked into the kitchen. My darling had left a small gift on the kitchen table. The pretty purple paper begged to be torn and ripped. Eagerly I obliged: Season 2 of The Office and the DS game Zelda: Phantom Hoursglass. Yay, what a sweetie!! My guy rocks!

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