Solitude

So, I am sitting in Black Water Loft, a nice artistic cafe just past the only traffic lights in Floyd, sipping a cup of Chamomile Spearmint tea and trying to decide what to write, while reveling in the delicious calm around me.

You can imagine a week cooped up in a house of 13, with it then dropping to 6 in a day.  At first I was relieved to have the sudden quiet and was able to read several chapters of Memoirs of a Geisha while Ellette sat at my feet doing a puzzle before the wood stove.  The boys set up a game in the other room and spent the rest of the evening, and much of the night, playing.

When Ellette grew bored of the puzzle and wanted someone to play with, she crawled into my lap and we watched a few episodes of “Rugrats,” which a bit of a flashback for me.  It was somewhat amusing to be watching this show I had adored as a child now with the eyes of an adult – a mother even – and notice things I hadn’t noticed before.  I appreciated the simplicity of it in contrast to the overwhelming chaos of the kids’ shows I see today, but at the same time I found myself a little annoyed, disgusted, and amused at how they followed and perpetuated stereotypes.

While Ellette and I were watching Rugrats, I set to work on the knitted cowl thing I had been trying to design and knit over the past week.  I had worked out this intricate cabled pattern and knit the neck warmer in it’s entirety.  It wasn’t until I had finished casting off and tried to slip it over my head that I realized my most grievous error.  I had failed to calculate the in-elasticity of the cables, and the fact that most of the neck warmer was cables, I should have added nearly twice as many stitches as I had cast on.  Even when I tried to slip it over the head of my 5 year old, it wouldn’t fit.  I spent a few minutes staring at it, wondering if there was any possible way I could salvage the several days of work I had put into it, and then decided to frog it and try again.  As I was ripping back the stitches, Odin’s sister was staring at my in horror.

It is somewhat amusing how non-knitters can not understand the joy of knitting, the necessity of frogging, and the benefit of the challenge.  I am by no means a process knitter, although I do enjoy the quiet monotony of making the same stitch over and over without having to think about it.  I can create the most beautiful things without paying attention just so I keep my hand occupied.  But I am a Knitter on a budget, and live by the motto: Never knit something you cannot afford not to wear.  So, when it became clear that this knitted “oops” was going to go to waste, I salvaged what I could and started over.

Unfortunately, halfway through the second one my mind decided it didn’t like what I was making.  The cables, for some reason, weren’t as satisfying in the design as I had hoped, so once again (although not quite so horrifyingly) I frogged that.

I spent a few days mulling over a new design, as I do want a neck warmer/cowl, and I have a bunch of leftover Cascade EcoWool in the stunning purple that I had made the Hemlock Ring Throw out of.  So, on graph paper, I began to chart different designs, until I had settled on one I had liked.  Well, I cast on two or three times and knit (and frogged) several times before I had worked out the glitches in the chart, my counting, and the definition of the design, before I was at last satisfied.

I am excited to complete it, but in the process I am wondering what this pattern would work best as.  A simple neck warmer?  I could have it button, or just be a complete circle, although if I were going to make it a complete circle I might make it more of a cowl.  I almost want to make it a scarf hood( skood?)  There are plenty of options, and I do enjoy the pattern, so maybe I will make several variations.  Who knows.

I don’t have much more yarn with me, I noticed.  A skein of a dark green for making I-cords, and a couple bags of remnants for…whatever.  I packed them, thinking I would end up inspired towards the end of my travels.  Which may be happening now……

Three Little Kittens Lost Their Mittens

So, one week of no computer.  It was a little tedious, but not very.  It wasn’t until after the holiday, when people were lounging around stuffed, exhausted, content, and quiet, that computers started to get brought out.  And, while a few comments were made along the line of technology taking over, no one seemed to care that some individuals retreated into a bit of personal time.  And, although I have been online to check email and say Happy Holidays, I couldn’t bring myself to spend more than 5 minutes here or there online.  So, now I sit down, watching Odin and Bueax setting up Axis and Allies, the house is mostly quiet and a big pot (vat?) of a delicious homemade Curried Pumpkin Soup is keeping warm on the comforting wood stove, that I find myself encouraged to write out the last week’s adventure.

Ellette and I packed up the last little bit of stuff and drove to Des Plaines to meet Odin and work.  The kitten, who had been in a box, wriggled her way free and went exploring the back of my station wagon.  She stared out the rear window with wide eyes and loathed Ellette for trying to scoop her back into the box for her own safety.

While Zoe was perfectly content in my Volvo, she was perfectly freaked out in Odin’s Hundai Accent.  It was smaller, louder, colder, and closer to the rush of Chicago traffic.  I curled her up in my scarf and held her close to me until she calmed down.  We drove almost all night, which I was sort of looking forward to, as it was the total Lunar Eclipse on the Winter Solstice.  Unfortunately, the skies were cloudy, snowy, and just plain yucky for much of our nocturnal travels.  we ended up stopping for sleep around 3.  I don’t remember where we were, but I remember the motel had an interesting vibe.  We set out a little late the next day, stopping for pancakes before we really got moving, and spent the next 5 hours navigating mountains.  It was still after dark before we arrived, but we did make it in time for dinner.

Being prepared for mine and Ellette’s arrival, Odin’s mother, Joann, stocked up on vegetarian friendly foods.  She’s good at making everyone feel welcome.

The next day, Odin and I, along with his sister Kolisha, went into Floyd – a little oasis of a hippie village tucked snugly into the mountains.  There is one stop light, 2 super markets and one hippie health food store.  There is a new coffee roaster that actually produces a nice quality coffee and right across the street is a new yarn store – the Woolly Jumper.

After a cup of coffee at the roastery, we jumped across the street to peruse the yarn store, which was wonderful.  Smallish, but with good quality yarns at very fair prices.  I have every intention of going back into the store to maybe pick up a few skeins of yarn in the next week that we are here.

At this point, people were arriving back at the house, so we finished running errands and returned home.  The house was so full of people for a solid 4 days that there was no way to get personal time, and you just get over it.  Every spare floor space was taken up by bedding, and seating was limited.  But there was mulled wine and laughter all around, not to mention that once is started snowing most of us ran outside to go sledding down the mountainside.

Odin and the boys spent a lot of time playing Axis and Allies, and indeed spent most of the night playing.  Twice.  The first time, I couldn’t sleep well, and was mostly awake when Odin crawled into bed at 7am, just as the sun was rising, and tried to get me to go outside with him to watch the sunrise.  He couldn’t sleep until I did, so I rolled out of bed, rather grumpily, and went out into the brisk morning air to watch the sun rise.

Christmas day everyone was eager to go sledding some more and play the game.  The White Elephant Game.  This is a large family tradition of theirs, which is really quite fun and economical.  The kids all opened their presents first.  And a few of the adults received gifts from either the children or their significant other.  Odin gave me the rest of the Sandman comics (he’d bought the first half for me last year), and I, unfortunately, did not have time to drive to my friend’s house to pick up Odin’s present, where it had been shipped, before leaving.

The game wasn’t as eventful as I remember last year being, but it was still fun. For those of you who don’t know what a white elephant is, I will explain.  First, there is a price limit – around $20 usually.  Everyone who would like to participate finds a gift within this price range, wraps it but doesn’t label it in any way, and places it under the tree.  Theoretically, there should be a one for one match, but we have usually had one or two extras just in case.  Last year we contributed a small flashlight on a magnetic tripod.  I don’t remember what else.  This year we put in a cookie tin of buttons, a telescope, and an antique tea pot/vase.   So, everyone draws numbers, and number 1 goes first.  They select one gift from the pile, open it, and it moves on.  The second person then has the choice of taking a gift from anyone who had gone before, or picking something from the pile.  The big fight was over a “snow screamer” sled and the telescope.  I was 13 out of 15, so in the end there really wasn’t anything I wanted overly much from anyone else.  I dived into the pile and ended up with a very elegant mirror and a half used jar of shea butter.  Amusing.  In the end, those extra gifts ended up getting traded, and I instead selected a beautiful silk scarf.  Everyone was satisfied at the end of the game, and some tired.

Odin ended up falling asleep on the big comfy chair next to the wood stove, and well….the young girls were rather bored.  It didn’t take much more than a suggestion for this to happen.

And then…


During the lull in activities, I managed to complete the Selbu mittens I had been working on.  I am very satisfied with the way they turned out.  And they are incredibly warm!!

And, that is my update so far.  Hope you have all had a wonderful holiday season so far, and keep looking out for more photos!

Frantic Checklist

1) Clothes? – Ran around this morning throwing things into my suitcase.  Sat down for a second to attempt to neatly pack.  Stuffed Ellette’s clothes into extra backpack, with extra gloves and hat in the front pocket.

Check

2) Toiletries – Quickly dried off shampoo and brushed teeth before shoving toiletries for entire family into ziploc bag.

Check

3) Blankets – Odin stuffed into the back of his car on the way to work this morning.

Check

4) Snacks – Fruit strips, Nutrigrain, Dried Bananas, Raisins, Crackers, Granola, Bottle of Water, Bottle of Juice, Wasabi Peas, Sunflower Seeds, Several packs of Coffee, Carrots, Almonds, Cacao Beans (?), and a half bushel of apples.

Check

5) Gifts – All in a bag, along with wrapping paper and tape

Check

6) Ellette Toys – Getting there…..Waiting for her to get home so she can decide what she wants to bring….or I might pack for her….

Not Check

7) Knitting? – Bringing mittens that I’m working on (3/4 finished!), several balls of green yarn for making I-Cords for a project, several remnants to work on Snoods with, the last of the Cascade Eco Wool for designing this interesting cabled cowl, and several balls of wool to sit down with Ellette and design mittens for her!

Check

8) Winter Gear – Considering I really don’t have much, that’s ok.  Ellette’s wearing hers, and Odin is lucky I had to stop back home because he forgot his Snow pants!

Check

9) Cat – Yup, we’re bringing the cat.  Which reminds me I need to pack kitty litter, cat box, and food dishes.  And the cat.  Fun fun.

Almost Check.

Hopefully we will be stopping somewhere tonight that has wifi and I can possibly update further.  It’s sort of crazy right now, hence the lack of detail and photos.  10 days in Virginia!  And I promise to update inbetween!

~Anna~

Getting There

There are several physical shops that carry my items, with various contracts stipulating length of time items can be displayed, percentage taken, advertising and communication, etc.  Today, I received a nice little box in the mail from Sparrow Collective in Milwaukee, returning items that just weren’t selling.  Fair enough.  It actually helps my stash deficit by having these items returned to me;  several coffee cozies, some of my rose hair clips, and the baby onesies that I figured would be a hit or miss at this shop.

This put me in mind of the task list I put up yesterday, and the items on that list I was able to check off, as well as the – umm – distractions – that ensued.

I did manage to make one half of the curtain for my studio.  I am absolutely in love with it.  I went to Vogue Fabrics yesterday in search of a zipper for the tie dress I am crafting (no pictures as of yet, sorry) and came away with several fabric remnants and 2 curtain rods.

The cat loves them as well, and I have found myself chastising the poor thing several times daily to preserve the integrity of the fabric.  The curtain – soon to be curtains – serve their purpose of separation very well.  My studio now feels like my personal space for work, and inspires me to continue working – with one exception.  The curtains also work to conserve heat.  The big open doorway between my studio space and the general living space meant that our furnace was cranking out heat rather frequently to keep the space warm, but with the curtain the heat stays relatively contained in each room.  However, the heat ends up mostly in the living space, and my studio with it’s big light capturing breezy windows is slightly chilly.  This situation must be rectified soon, but I’m not quite sure how.

I went to the post office, and when I arrived realized that the parcel wasn’t actually ready to mail, so I turned around.  I never did make it back.  That is on my to-do list for tomorrow.

Coffee Cozies and Coasters were constructed, mostly.  I have a few odds and ends to wrap up – clipping stray threads, sewing on buttons, and ironing on labels.  There is no urgent call to complete these, although I would like to stock up the coffee shop before we leave for Virginia.

I also allowed myself to be distracted, on this trip to the post office, by Tom Thumb, a craft store just down the street from the PO.  I went inside, in search of the paper I wrap by boxes in to ship, and instead bought several dozen sheets of felt, with which to make Plustasches…

Yep – clip on, plush, mustaches.  Brilliant.  I had so much fun!  This is the design that is on the back of the ceramic coffee mugs at the Other Brother Coffeehouse, where I work.  I gave the original to my boss this morning as a holiday gift.  He was laughing so hard it made me proud.  I am going to experiment with different styles of mustaches and in different colors.  I have brown, gray, and blond felt as well.

There is still so much to get done, though!  One day I will learn how to slow down time so I have enough time to work, keep house, raise a child, manage my own business, and not lose my sanity.  One day…

Insurmountable

I feel today is if the tasks set before me are monstrous.  There is work that I have been putting off.  The chill in this old house seems to seep to my bones and I want to do nothing more than curl up with a cup of tea, a blanket, and a basket of knitting and while away the hours.  So, in recent weeks, it has been difficult to actually kick butt and make things happen.

The ten days we are taking off to spend the holidays with Odin’s mother in Virginia have really pushed me into gear, however, and I have begun working non-stop to complete the tasks I now must force myself to do.

1) curtains for the studio.  It has been getting rather bothersome to try to work while others are in the house.  I have begun work on the curtains – a brilliant blue jacquard that has a very lovely and inspiring feel to it and a soft floral weave.

2) More coffee cozies and coasters for the coffee shop, and in general.  Hopefully I will have enough of a surplus to actually go out and do the marketing I need to.

3) I need to sew more baby wings!  I have some cut out and ready to sew onto the onesies; it’s simply a matter of doing it now!  One reason I have been a tad lazy here is that it is surprisingly difficult to sew on the wings without wrinkling the fabric.  Several curse words get muttered in the making of these.

4) Post office to mail a wing and tutu set from my excess stock  bin.  I’ve been trying to reduce the amount of wings I have in holding right now, simply because they are difficult to transport safely, and some sets have been transported across the country.  It is time they find a good home and I clear space for new inspiration!

5) I still have to finish my lace earring hangers.  I finished one in time for my sister’s birthday.  She has picked up the hobby of making earrings to use up her free time when her children are at their father’s for the weekend.  She is getting quite talented, and I wanted to encourage her to continue making beautiful earrings.

I am proud of myself so far in the morning as having worked rather diligently on several things on this list.  I have to keep hopping between tasks so I don’t get bored, put in a movie, and work on my sweater.

Discipline is key!

Oh, That’s Sad…

Yup.  You see it, right?  I’d scan the X-Ray if I could.  Do you realize what that is?  That is a US Size 1 DPN (Double Pointed Needle) by Takumi, made of bamboo.  2.25mm of knitting delight, snapped in half from too much loving.  I weep for you, I do.

This piece of knitterly madness was discover whilst searching for my pencil box of DPNs to make myself mittens.  These mittens:

The “Selbuvott or not” alias Selbu Sea Horse Mittens I found on Ravelry here.  I am having fun working on them here and there.  One down side to the pattern is that there is a chart.  And that’s it.  For one who has never made mittens before, it seemed a little daunting.  And then I sucked it up and got to work.  It’s just numbers, I told myself.  I use numbers every day.

Do you want to see another sad thing?  Really, do you?  I warn you, if you are weak of heart or stomach, or if your sanity or sobriety is unstable, look no further into this post.  What you are about to see is enough to frighten any potential knitter away from the craft.  Any experienced Knitter (with a capital “K”) to cry in a corner, afraid to go near her stash that the nightmare might end up hers.

So, do you still want to see it?

You see it, right?  That’s only part of the finished garment.  What you are looking at, for those inexperienced or non-knitters reading this, is the inside of the Klimt sweater I am working on.  Those long tails of yarn hanging everywhere – those are all of the ends I have to sew in before I’m done.  And that’s not even all!!  I’m not even up to the armholes yet!  There will be more before this adventure is complete!

Part of me is cheering that it’s worth it – all of those crazy loose ends hanging out of the bottom.  The pattern calls for them to be sewed inside using common sewing thread.  That designer knew how to tackle a tough issue, that’s for certain.  I’m pleased with how the colors are all coming together.  I have 11 more rows to go before beginning armhole shaping.  I feel like I’m so close, it’s difficult to stop at night!

And well, the usual update on this sweater:

Sobriety levels: a few glasses of wine, I admit.

Patience: low

Cursing: Moderate

Excitement: intensifying

Family: frustrated

Roommate: thinks I’m crazy

Cat: trying to appropriate the different knitted projects, completed, or in progress, laying around the house.  Whether or not I’m working on them at that moment.

Knitter’s Holiday Wishlist

1) A friggin’ blocking board.  I am currently using my bed to block the Hemlock Ring Doily Throw that I completed this morning and I doubt my partner will be happy with the fact that our covers might be slightly damp by the time we go to bed.  If the throw is even done drying by that time….(Unfortunately, it is one of the few rooms in the house that I can block and the cat won’t attack it.  She was trying to claim the throw for herself all day!)

2) A Yarn swift.  There are so many tangles of yarn in my stash right now it is ridiculous.

3) A ball winder.  I think perhaps numbers 2 and 3 should be lumped together at this point.  My little fingers are getting tired of winding the yarn over and over again.

4) A bottle of whiskey.  Yup. You try binding off 478 stitches with no fortification other than coffee.

5) An endless supply of movies (thank you, NETFLIX!)  When knitting for business purposes, and thereby churning out the same garments time after time with very little variation, I tend to go a little stir crazy.  I have the patterns memorized, don’t have to think about them, and my mind meanders.  If there isn’t a clear focus, it could mean chaos for my family.  Therefore, having a steady stream of movies (or conversation, for that matter) while I am working, is incredibly helpful.

6) A printer/copy machine. I don’t want to get my significant other in trouble by forwarding him really cool patterns and asking him to quick print them off for me so I can start making them!  He’s done it a few times for me, but I can’t push my luck.

The Hemlock Ring Doily Throw!  I have completed it.  There is something to be said with the excitement of completing a project.  It strikes you in that last stitch bound off.  In the gently soaking and blocking, when you’re placing the needles in place and the beauty of your work pops through the stitches.  I just sat staring at this for a little while, wishing that on this cold cold day I could just wrap up in it’s warm wool stitches and knit some more.

I have also resumed work on the Sweater.  I am currently on band six, the last of the complete bands.  There are two more short bands after this, and then simple stockinette with shaping for the rest!  Photos and a better update will follow shortly, I promise.

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