He is risen. I have fallen… asleep

When you are a vicar, Holy Week is a really big deal. This year I’ve upped the number of services slightly, plus we’ve had a big theme of exploring creative prayer during Lent. I’ve loved pretty much every minute of it, but it has been full on.
Today, after two services and a home communion, I kicked my email inbox into a bit of shape, did some planning ahead for the next two weeks then, at quarter to five, I stopped. I relaxed, snuggled up on the sofa with the girl, and let things go.
It turns out that I’m quite tired and have been running fueled on adrenaline for quite a while. It feels very good indeed to relax, although now I have no motivation to make anything happen. I’ve sat in a chair all evening reading about knitting, (yes, still the yarn harlot; yes, I have a problem; no, I am not stopping because I’m at 2012 now, so the end is in sight), unable to make decisions about what to knit, drink or watch.
Of those three things, the only thing I managed to sort out was what to drink: whisky and ginger wine. To my knowledge, it’s the first time I’ve tried that combination, but my Dad drinks it. I think he calls it a Whisky Mac. I’m fairly sure that Mum doesn’t let him use the decent whisky for it, but I’m a whisky snob so there is no poor whisky in the house, just the nice bottle of Tobermory I got in December. I spent a happy couple of minutes tasting various ratios until I got something that was sweet but with a good kick.

On the knitting front, since I last posted I have been creating more stripes on the baby blanket: boring, garter stitch, still lovely colours, nearly at the halfway point.

I’m hoping for a decent amount of actual knitting time this week, but now I’m going to head for bed with a book. I’m wondering about Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. I bought it when it first came out because it was such a beautiful book, but got distracted about a third of the way through. I’m inclined to try again and if it doesn’t suit this time then it is going to the charity shop. That tome is too big to be purely ornamental.

Balanced

[I do get round to talking about knitting and spinning eventually in this post – keep going]

I’ve spent a bit of time during this last year or so bemoaning the lack of time I have to devote to knitting and spinning. With a full time job, two little kids, and a husband I really should spend a little time with, there isn’t a great surprise that life is full, but is it too full?

This week I’ve been away on a residential course with work. It’s a leadership training programme that is grounded in principles taken from the Rule of St Benedict. If you’ve not really studied the Rule of St Benedict (and lets face it, who among us can honestly say we have?), you might be imagining a focus on long hours of prayer and hard work scrubbing monastery floors. That’s not quite what this is about.

From the little I’ve read, the Benedictine way of life seems to be a life of balance. Now, the way the Rule of Benedict is followed in a monastery is very different from the way it can be followed outside the walls (see note about husband and kids, above). Nevertheless, there are some principles that transfer quite well.

When I got my timetable for last week, I noticed it started at 8am (with prayer) and finished at 9pm each day.  At least there’s no danger of the husband thinking I was slacking off on a work jolly (this suggestion has been mooted in the past in similar situations). Within this full day, there was a welcome gap in the afternoon. Between lunch and 4pm, there was a two hour slot labelled ‘personal time’. In my mind, I re-designated it ‘knitting time’ and took enough knitting to fill a good six hours per day.

Now, 13 hour days are not out of the ordinary in my line of work. When most of the people you encounter at work are either at work during the day or busily retired, a lot of things happen in the evening. In fact, 15 hour days come round every so often.

At the end of a 13 hour day I would expect to feel absolutely wiped out: the difference that taking 2 hours (to knit) out of the middle of the day made was astonishing. With the balance between work and recreation, those Benedictines were on to something. Making time for recreation means that there is something giving renewal in the middle of a long day. I was not the only knitter on the course. In one afternoon, we got up to four knitters on the comfy chairs (and we had one very interested bystander – we’ll take spare needles to the next bit of the course).

Slightly off at a tangent, but an interesting discovery anyway: Before settling down to knit I took a brisk walk each day and I was then awake enough not to doze off for the  next couple of hours. I’ve been getting internal and external nudges about the benefits of exercise for months. Maybe it’s time to take note and do something.

This course lasts for most of the rest of this year and we have a project to complete before the next residential. The focus of the project is something that will develop you personally, not a work-related thing, but perhaps something you have always wanted to do, something that makes your soul leap.

Here is my project: Spin to knit and publish. My spinning wheel sits in my study, always within easy reach but rarely touched. I want to get the hang of spinning, well enough to knit with my handspun. I also want to learn to write patterns and understand a bit more about design.

This is what I’m hoping to achieve:

  • practice spinning regularly (daily, or at least a long session each week) and get the hang of spinning a balanced yarn
  • complete Craftsy classes on spinning and plying
  • design an item to be knit with handspun yarn
  • write the pattern properly
  • knit the item
  • publish the pattern

This should be an interesting few months.

Another part of the course is to keep (and regularly review) a learning journal. Isn’t there a quote something along the lines of ‘the un-reflected life is not worth living’? I happened to have a new notebook with me and I’m using a lot of the Bullet Journal system: simple, yet effective.

WIP update:

I took the Fish Lips Kiss socks with me and I have mastered the heel. Very simple once I figured it out, but until that point absolutely baffling. I am now speeding up the first leg and wondering when to stop.

LetterMo update:

Two days behind, but enjoying writing (mostly very short) letters.

Lazy Saturday

There’s a certain time of day when it becomes too late to have a morning shower. Yes, it’s called the afternoon.
It was my job this morning to wrangle the children, so I got up and made them pancakes for a (late) breakfast. I caught up on a couple of weeks of Desert Island Discs while I cooked and ate, then headed for the shower, but found the window wide open. Far too cold to go in the shower, so window shut and needing to kill time until it’s warm again.
Now I’m stuck. The momentum for getting showered and dressed has gone, the morning has gone and we are expecting visitors this afternoon.
On the knitting front, I’m now 90% of the way through the swirl. The sleeves are done, just the decreases into the front bodice left. I’ve found my next project as well: a new Ysolda KAL. It started last week, but I’m trying to avoid casting on until the swirl is done. See, there is discipline in there somewhere.
Have a lovely Saturday. I’m off for a shower… probably.

A yarn-free zone

Pens

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Although most of my communication happens through a keyboard or a phone, there are still quite a number of things I have to write by hand: cards, letters for work, notes to teachers. I find I think differently when I’m writing to when I’m typing. The physicality of it and the slowness mean the synapses in the brain fire differently and I find that creative processes are changed.

Having the correct pen for the job in hand is more pleasing to me than might be warranted by the insignificance of the task in hand. Is it the pleasing scratch of a pencil, the effortless glide of the gel pen or the springy fountain pen that is right for this particular piece of work?

When I was attending lectures regularly, I always had my set of Staedtler fineline pens. The different colours helped to organise my thoughts. The nib was fine enough for the speedy scrawling that was needed and, very often, the notes were even legible afterwards. Woe betide anyone who replaced a pen out of order in the box.

The writing implement we were first given at school was an HB pencil: yellow and black striped with a red end. I go out of my way to buy these rather than any other pencil because they anchor me back to my very first experiments in writing.  I write in pencil when I’m not sure of what I want to say. The temporary nature is important. It doesn’t matter if something is wrong: it can be rubbed away with no worries.

Fountain pens are the kings of pens. They are needy: demanding ink, objecting if left alone too long, yet have a certain grandeur. The balance of a good fountain pen can increase the pleasure of writing. I have three regular fountain pens:

  • A cheap Parker, filled with permanent black ink for work. This is the pen that gets used by wedding couples to sign their names, records baptisms and funerals in the registers. Every so often I buy a spare pen, yet only ever seem to have one.
  • A nice Parker, metal and smooth to the touch. This is my usual letter writing pen, which sits on my desk until needed. Usually it is filled with blue ink. The previous ink cartridge in it was black and it really didn’t suit the pen. It is much happier in blue. Sadly, very often this pen dries out through under-use. Deplorable, but I have a strategy for overcoming this, of which more later.
  • A Japanese pen, an Ohto Tasche, which travels with me in my handbag. This is the pen I use in meetings. It is a half length pen, only really being usable once you fix the lid on the end, at which point it becomes perfectly balanced. This is the pen that has frivolous colours of ink in. I found a set of cartridges that are pale blue, pink and purple. It has a slightly scratchy writing style, more like a pencil in feel, but I enjoy using it. The smoothness of the action when taking off the lid or replacing it is particularly pleasing.

There are other pens of course: dozens of cheap biros litter the house, (along with a few superior biros that rejoice in the name ‘rollerball’ and are actually quite nice) and there are felt pens galore here and there.

I also have a set of dip pen nibs and a heap of good intentions to figure out how to use them, but haven’t had the time. I rather sympathise with Stephen Fry, who writes in one of his books about how his enthusiasm for calligraphy waxes and wanes. He buys calligraphy sets, spends one glorious afternoon playing with them, then ends up relegating them to the back of a drawer somewhere until they are unusable.

Paper

No matter how many pens you have and how wonderful they are, there is not a lot you can do with them without paper.

I don’t think I am as discerning in my choice of paper as I am with what pen to use. It would probably be of some benefit to my handwriting to take more care over the paper.

Loose leaf paper is the nicest to write on because if you mess up a page you can just begin again. I have a big box of foolscap size, which makes a nice change to the golden ratios of A4 and A5.

Notebooks are a mixed blessing. Not only do they seem intimidating in their blankness, but they are quite tricky to write in with a decent pen unless they have the sort of spine that lies flat. I like to buy notebooks, but tend to wait to use them until I find a worthy use, so I have a little stash that probably won’t ever run out.

Get to the point

I did have a reason for writing about stationery. Last year, in late February, I discovered this site: Lettermo. The challenge is:

  1. In the month of February, mail at least one item through the post every day it runs. Write a postcard, a letter, send a picture, or a cutting from a newspaper, or a fabric swatch.
  2. Write back to everyone who writes to you. This can count as one of your mailed items.

I’m inclined to take up the challenge this year, since I was too late last year. In preparation, I’ve been assessing my store of stationery items. The missing ingredients to the whole challenge are people to write to and things to say. Without either of those, the challenge will fall rather flat.

If you would like to receive a letter as part of the Lettermo challenge this year, then leave a comment including a topic or two you would like me to write about. Don’t put your address in the comment (unless you really don’t care about it being online). You can probably figure out how to send me a more private message if you look at the about page, (which I have just had to compose).

2014 FO and WIP round-up

I think most of these links will only work if you have a Ravelry account. If you knit and don’t have an account, I highly recommend it.

What did I finish in 2014?

  • Handwarmers for my sister – finished on January 2nd (a late Christmas present
  • Stranded Advent Scarf – finished on January 23rd
  • Socks for Toby and some more squares on the great big sock yarn scarf. These were both for the 2014 Winter Ravellenics
  • Two (1,2)pairs of socks for Sock Madness
  • A hat for me
  • Ysoldas’s Mystery KAL shawl
  • My portable knitting project: Trillian, a small triangular scarf made of sock yarn (no picture of it finished, but it is often round my neck).
  • Socks for Sock Sniper
  • The big Auction Socks of DOOM

What do I have on the needles and what is the likelihood of completion?

  • The Swirl (50% complete). Very likely to finish the knitting. The seaming might get procrastinated.
  • The Sock blanket scarf (60% complete). Now too big to carry round as a portable knitting project, but too small to be finished. Slim chance of finishing any time soon.
  • The amigurumi project. I’ve lost interest in this. I have an elephant and half a turtle. Needs bringing to a close before I start another crochet project.
  • Some camouflage lace socks (first sock nearly done).  Highly likely to be finished. These were put aside in order to do the great big auction socks of DOOM. It was a toss-up as to whether to finish these before the swirl, but the swirl is definitely winter knitting, so these can wait.
  • Some plain socks using the Fish Lips Kiss Heel – always nice to learn a new heel. (Honesty here – I’ve just had to add this to Ravelry because I started it over the summer when I was in a hurry for a new project and never got round to adding it as a WIP). My current portable project: slowly but surely it will be finished.
  • The big cotton blanket from 2011. I think I’ve six squares completed. Let’s not kid ourselves: I may as well add this to the WIP list for the end of next year. The blanket needs to be bigger than the child it is destined for (or her dolls) and she is now 3.

The plan is to finish the swirl before starting anything else.

What is in the queue and ready to begin?

  • Color Affection: yarn wound, pattern printed
  • Kadril – pattern gifted by Beth in 2013, yarn chosen, needs winding
  • Knee-length socks for me. Yarn purchased, need to choose pattern
  • A crochet kit that I bought at Yarndale (impulse purchase because the yarn is so pretty)

    Beautiful Yarn
    Beautiful Yarn

Looking further ahead

  • I’d like to learn to fit a sweater properly
  • I’ve got a great big skein of laceweight that wants to be a big shawl
  • Spinning, perhaps even spinning for a particular project and then knitting it

In love with knitting again

The big long socks of misery are off the needles, blocked and ready to send. Almost instantly, I felt a lightness of spirit and dived back into my various knitting bags to see what was lurking within.
I spent an evening knitting on a lace sock, before sitting down to think about what would be the biggest win to finish. The conclusion? Finish the swirl.
Originally cast on new years day 2013, this project reaches its second anniversary later this week. I’ve knitted to beyond the halfway point now and I have momentum. There’s a handy thread on the swirl ravelry group that tells you the halfway point in each pattern. I have slightly less than half the yarn left, so another skein of the dark grey is on the way here. I’m hoping that means I won’t run out after all, but better safe than sorry.
My aim for the next couple of months is to operate a finish two projects for each one started policy. It would be lovely to cast on some of those patterns that I’ve been thinking about for years.

Miles of yarn

In my last post at the end of Blog Week, I mentioned that one of my plans for the next year is to end up with less yarn in the stash. In order to do that, I need a baseline to work from. I spent an afternoon with my Ravelry stash, bringing it up to date, and I have some figures to play with.

Incidentally, did you know you can download a spreadsheet of your stash? Just press the excel logo on the top right of the stash page.

stashscreenshot

It is difficult to know whether it will be more appropriate to look at the stash in terms of length or weight, so I have both here. Obviously, using a thick yarn up will have a greater impact on the weight, rather than the yardage and using a thin yarn will have the opposite effect.

In total, in my stash, I have 8.67 kg of yarn, which comes out as 15 miles, 68 chains, 18 yards and 6 inches. (I do like the imperial system for measurements of length, although for small weights I prefer metric – see bottom of post for a little reminder of how it works).

Of this total, a little over half (4.5kg; 8m 48ch 17yds) has been designated for a particular project and a fair proportion of this (1.9kg; 1m 78ch 17yds) is attached to projects that I have already started.

Just over a fifth of my stash consists of leftovers (most of which is sock leftovers that I am working through gradually and incorporating them into my mitred square scarf).

2.87kg (4m 55ch) of my stash is not yet allocated to any project.

So there we have it. I’ll go through my stash next year again and see what the difference is.

My knitting this month is consistently square. As well as continuing with the mitred square scarf, I’ve revived the 2011 KAL blanket that I’m doing in some cotton from Texere Yarns. I can’t remember what made me shelve it in the first place and I’m quite enjoying it. The group used the patterns from a KAL on bernat.com for the first square each month, then added a second, optional, square from a variety of sources. I had both squares for January and February and part of the first March square when I stopped. I have now finished the first March square, started the second one and added another couple of inches to the January square to make it, well… square. When first knitting it, I was a little optimistic about how far it would stretch!

I was very chuffed to discover that I had won a contest this week. I entered the Sanday Spinners blog week competition and was the only correct entry. I’m looking forward to receiving my carbon fibre needles in a few days.

Knitting and Crochet Blog Week Day 6 – A tool to covet

We’re getting towards the end of the week now. Today is all about gadgets – search for 4KCBWDAY6 for what other people have to say. (Today is also my birthday, so if my family are nice to me, there may be something more to report by the end of the day – do take a virtual piece of cake while you read.)

Write about your favourite knitting or crochet (or spinning, etc) tool. It can either be a tool directly involved in your craft (knitting needles or crochet hook) or something that makes your craft more pleasurable – be it a special lamp, or stitch markers.

Is it an item that you would recommend to others, and if so for which applications/tasks do you think it is most suited. Conversely, do you have a tool/accessory that you regret buying? Why does it not work for you?

Over the last few years, I have collected many different tools for knitting, all of which I would recommend.

  • blocking wires
  • blocking mats – actually just interlocking foam play mats from the Early Learning Centre
  • sock blockers
  • lovely sock needles – dpns and circulars
  • locking stitch markers
  • a set of knit pro (knit-picks for the Americans) interchangeable needles
  • a magnetic chart holder

Without question, the tools that make the biggest difference to my craft are my ball-winder and swift. I’ve had the ball-winder for some years, (although it appears I have never taken a photo of it and the light is too bad to take one now – go here and scroll all the way to the bottom of the page), bought the first time I went to the Knitting and Stitching Show from the Texere Yarns stand.

Before the ball-winder arrived, I had wound a couple of skeins into balls, but found it tricky, particularly the need to compel someone to remain on the sofa, holding a skein of yarn over their outstretched hands. After the ball-winder it was undoubtedly easier to wind skeins with the assistance of someone to hold the skein tight, but it could be done with some judiciously placed chairs instead if necessary. Still, nearly every skein ended up in a big knot at some point in the process. Even knowing that the knot must be a slip knot and therefore unravellable, doesn’t make it any less tedious.

Eventually, I bought a swift, a beautiful wooden one that collapses into a fairly small box. It is the Amish-design Wooden Yarn Swift from Chiaogoo.

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It is still fairly new, so doesn’t run as smoothly or easily as I would like, but it makes it very easy to wind yarn, with no other human required to hold it. I spend whole evenings with the swift and ball winder out, winding yarn in front of the tv. It works perfectly for thicker yarns, but for thinner yarns (sock and lace) I often have to tension it by hand to avoid it being wound too tight.

My son is now at the age where he thinks a ball winder is a wonderful toy and he can often be persuaded to turn the handle of the ball winder for me, with some encouragement and a reminder to stay at the same speed and winding in the same direction. You get some horrible snarls if you start going the other way and a loop of yarn catches in the cogs underneath.

Any knitting tools I regret buying? Just the very short (10 cm) sock needles I bought last autumn. I hold my needles in the gap between my thumbs and forefingers. The short needles just poke holes in the skin.

On the whole, I love knitting tools and I’m sure I will acquire more of them in the future. When it comes right down to it though, they are peripheral to the action of just sitting and knitting with good yarn and needles that feel right.

P.S. I took one of the pink socks to a work meeting on Thursday evening and was sitting there quite happily knitting my way up the lace chart when the cable of my circular needle caught on a button on my coat. I didn’t notice, reached out for something and then discovered I had neatly removed the needle from the stitches, depositing stitch markers in the darkness under the seat.

It all ended happily at home later that evening (I was able to grovel on the floor and find all the stitch markers) and I fixed the lace with only one round of tinking. Maybe I need to take simpler knitting to meetings.

Knitting and Crochet Blog Week Day 5 – Something Different

We’ve reached Day 5, and time for something different.

It’s the annual challenge to blog in a way different to how you normally blog. You may choose to create a podcast, or vlog, create a wordless post or write in verse. You’ve already stretched your wings with an infographic, now it’s time to freestyle. You can post on any topic you like, but be sure to post in a style different from your usual blog presentation. There’s not too much guidance for this one simply because the more varied the posts are on this day, the wider the sources of information for other bloggers will be. Bonus points if you manage to work your house animal in somehow.

I was struggling for inspiration for this day this year (however you could always go and see my post from last year) and then I saw this youtube clip. It’s not new, but it is jaw-dropping and has a sheepy theme. I don’t think I post youtube clips very often, so I hope this is enough to fulfil the brief and will entertain if nothing else.

 

 

To find other posts for Day 5, search for 4KCBWDAY5.

Knitting and Crochet Blog Week Day 4 – Colour Review

So, today in Knitting and Crochet Blog Week is all about colour (search 4KCBWDAY4 to find more colourful posts).

What are your favourite colours for knitted or crocheted projects. Have a think about what colours you seem to favour when yarn shopping and crafting.

My favourite colours generally are blue, green and purple. A lot of my knitting tends to follow those colours, particularly if I want to wear it. However, I’ve had quite a lot of yarn given to me, or via sock yarn clubs, so I do have in my stash quite a wide variety of colours. Last year, on looking through my socks, I realised a gap in my colour range. I had no pink socks. Now, given that I dislike pink, this shouldn’t be a problem, but I am a priest in the Church of England and one of my secret geekish traits is to match my hand-knitted socks on Sundays to the colour of the vestments for the day. On the third Sunday in Advent and the fourth Sunday in Lent, traditionally, this means pink, so I must have pink socks. I haven’t completed them, but I’m working my way up the leg.

Only after writing this part of your post should you then actually look to see what colours you have used in your projects. Make a quick tally of what colours you have used in your projects over the past year and compare it to the colours you have written about. Compare this, in turn, to the colours that are most dominant in your yarn stash – do they correlate?

Ravlastyear

Looking back at the year, I see that I have already knitted two pairs of pink socks – both to be given to other people. I’ve tried rainbow yarn and a few shades of grey, but otherwise I’ve stayed fairly well within my comfort zone. The very pink-looking one on the top row (third along from left) will look much less pink when finished – it is just the edging that is pink, the rest is grey-ish (with flecks of many other colours).

Now think back to your house animal – do the colours you have chosen relate to your animal in anyway – if you are in the house of peacock, for example, are your projects often multicoloured and bright?

No, I don’t think I can find anything monkeyish about these colours. I’ll finish with an update on my ongoing mitred square scarf. Can you tell the colour rules I’m following in placing the squares?

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I had help with the photoshoot.