Taking Charge

Time-management guru, Alison Mitchell, has a wonderful exercise in her book “Time Management for Manic Mums” to demonstrate her “Wine Bottle Theory of Time Management”. You get a jug and try to fill it with apples, blueberries, caster sugar and wine.

  • The apples represent the urgent and important tasks, the things you have to do or you’ll get bitten in the ass like going to work, paying bills or feeding kids.
  • The blueberries represent important tasks but there’s no urgency – doing them will save you time in the long run like setting up a system for making sure bills get paid on time. For me, following through on publishing patterns is in this category.
  • Then the caster sugar represents tasks that are important to, or urgent for, someone else – in my case that’s housework. I do it because I know it makes DH happy when it’s kept on top of, but it would be low on my priority list otherwise.
  • And then there’s a bottle of wine – ah… wine! It represents all the things I’d rather be doing like crafting, twitter, Ravelry – than the important things I should be doing.

You get the idea: if we fill our jug / day with wine or caster sugar first we’ll struggle to get the important apples and blueberries in there. If you put the apples in first the smaller items of lesser importance will fill in around the gaps.

Case in point: this morning, instead of washing the floors as I’d planned, I played with an Excel spreadsheet of my stash that I’d exported from Ravelry. Naturally, the floors did not get washed at all as my “wine” task took over my time.

Playing with my stash spreadsheet is a favourite game of mine as I try to plan my next knitting / crochet project based on maximising how much stash I’ll use up. With almost 74 kilometers of yarn to work through it’s an understandable obsession.

This week is my first of 10 weeks of parental leave (hence all the blogging action!). For six of those 10 weeks, we will be living in the south of France so I was developing my knitting plan around working with cotton and linen to cope with the heat. In fact I bought a new project’s worth of linen with this plan in mind when I was at La Droguerie in Paris last week. This is the logic that has me struggling with 74km of yarn!

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Haul from La Droguerie, Paris

However, rather than a stash-dive being my usual exercise in choosing “wine” over “caster sugar” this morning it turned into an “apple” moment as a realisation dawned on me…

You may have noticed the “current status” of my two design ideas in my last post was “stewing”. If you recall my previous blog-post “Potential” I had challenged myself to publish an average of one pattern per month for the next year. I wrote that in November 2013. So where are the seven or so new patterns designed by me?

Sadly, still in my head!

And here’s the why: I’ve been busy! The wrong kind of busy – I’ve been filling my jug/time with going to work; looking after the kids and house; knitting or crocheting; working through stash… or teachers’ presents… or items to enter in the local horticultural show. I’ve allowed myself to be so “Busy” with busy-ness of everyday things I’ve avoided the the business of being a designer: knuckling down, swatching and sketching, pattern-writing and testing.

Rather than fill my 10-week-carafe with delicious French wine and come back from France with three new cotton or linen sweaters and several dishcloths, I’m taking charge of my pitcher to pick some juicy “blueberries” from my stash to swatch with instead:

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It’s all in my head…

Who’s in charge here?

I blogged before about my WIPs rising up against me to thwart my crafting prowess. If you think I’m being over-the-top and melodramatic you might be right but it was fairly disconcerting to fall foul of no less than seven projects at once.

Now there’s been some time to lick and heal wounds I thought I should do a round-up of how (or… if) I beat back the tide:

  • 1. Gloves for teacher “B” – I progressed these to the point of joining the fingers together and starting the palms. However, I tried to do this without looking at the pattern and messed it up entirely. It wouldn’t have been much to rip back and redo but I’d really lost interest in pursuing the project as an appropriate present for this teacher. Current Status: RIPPED!
  • 2. Design Idea #1 – previously ripped out. Current Status: STEWING
  • 3. Slouchy Beret for teacher “C” – I abandoned the project in this yarn but not the pattern. I made another Phoenix in a solid grey and was delighted when I found a fabulous button at The Constant Knitter to finish it off. Like the Phoenix of its name, this gift rose triumphantly from ashes of defeat. Current Status: FINISHED AND GIVEN AWAY!
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Slouchy Phoenix for Teacher “C”

  • 4. Design Idea #2 – previously abandoned but not yet ripped out. Current Status: STEWING
  • 5. Baby quilt – I’ve been warned not to rip out the seams already made. I think this can be rescued with some sashing. Current Status: HIBERNATING
  • 6. Mint green Pizelle – previously abandoned but not yet ripped out. Current Status: RIPPED!
  • 7. Raspberry Beret for teacher “D” – I ripped it out and started again. Current Status: FINISHED AND GIVEN AWAY!
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Raspberry Beret

  • CONCLUSION: of seven troublesome WIPs the final score is FO = 1; Ripped = 3 and Hibernating = 3
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    Status: stable

    Speaking of presents for teachers, in the end, Teacher “B” got a scarf in Tunisian Crochet and Teacher “E” got socks.

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    Tunisian Scarf for Teacher “B”

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    Faux Fair-isle socks for Teacher “E”

    Unfortunately, I spent so much time on failed hat and gloves I ran out of time to make a present for Teacher “A”. Knit-night buddy Watermemory came to my rescue and sold me one of her felted bags. She’ll be launching them on her etsy shop shortly so stay tuned!

     

Killing off a Curse

My last post was fermenting for about a month before I finally finished it off and exposed my WIP trauma to the world. I can report that while a few FOs have wended their torturous way (Raspberry Beret and a different Phoenix), a few WIPs still languish (the gloves and the quilt top).

My lucky number Eight project, mentioned at the end of my last post, was a radical choice and very taunting of the crafting gods. The back story was that I had a wedding to go to and you may recall how much I loathe clothes shopping for myself so I went to a Personal Shopper and picked up this dress:

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Swit-swoo!

And this coat to go with it (Spring weddings not being known for their balmy weather)

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Bit-a-bling!

Of course it needed a shawl and, as luck would have it, I had just the yarn in my stash.

DH gone mad!

Noro Silk Garden Sock

The Crafting Gods were smiling upon me, obviously. So, naturally, nothing would do me but to taunt them and pick a shawl pattern by a designer I’d previously flagged technical-editing issues to. Others in my knitting circle have also run into difficulties on some of her patterns (mainly from the same book) so there’s a bit of a standing joke amongst us of the “Curse of Kirsten”. Selecting this pattern could potentially result in me running a gauntlet, crafting style, as my fellow crafters do their best to disguise their “we told you so” looks and “why do you do these things to yourself” comments.

Or could I possibly break the Curse? Yes, you know me by now: I’m arrogant enough to imagine that’s exactly what I’ll do.

The pattern was a lot of fun and played nicely with the self-striping yarn (though, admitedly, it would be better in a solid or semi-solid).

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It goes up and down not around and around

I got a funky 70s-esque shawl out of it. And a lot of compliments at the wedding.

The Crafting Gods had to get my hubris in check by making sure I ran out of yarn. And though they kept me guessing until the last stitch of the row, there was thankfully enough to get a few rows of the edging complete.

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Cutting it fine!

And the Curse? Sadly, the pattern did have small technical-editing issues. Significant enough that it might confuse a crochter but not anything that couldn’t be got over with a liberal dose of common sense. I can’t say the Curse won’t rue another day. My guess is this designer has got so popular and in demand she is unable to give as much time to cross-checking the technical-editing of her patterns (or has possibly outsourced some of the design work?). It’s sad but it puts me off purchasing any of her other publications or patterns.

But at least my lucky number Eight was lucky after all!

ETA by popular request (yeah, I look like I’m about to start a reel – that’s accidental! – or possibly ingrained!):

The Ensemble!

The Ensemble!

When Mojo is a Mo’fo’!

Seven!

No less than seven WIPs have turned bad on me lately.

Count ‘em: SEVEN !

ONE…
I started gloves for DD’s teacher. The pattern (from my library) is I-chord gloves by Meg Swanson. The yarn (from my stash) is Textiles A Mano Caricia in Nightfall. The pattern is written for worsted weight. The yarn is fingering weight. Ergo, the project needs maths.

The maths is not really the problem. The measurements for the maths is the problem. The model for the measurement i.e. my husband, specifically his hands, has been travelling a lot lately.

So this project languishes.

TWO…
I decided, while I was waiting, I should get on with one of my design ideas. So I cast-on an experiment. It went like many experiments do… in cartoons: it made odd jolting movements before juddering to a halt.

It has been ripped out and is no more.

THREE…
I met one of MCs new teachers and immediately decided she was a slouchy beret kind of gal. So I started Phoenix (from my library) in LuLu’s Yarns BFL Sock (from my stash).

I thought the Tunisian Crochet / linked crochet stitches would play nicely in the mottled yarn. I swatched some of the band and the eyelet pattern and concluded I was sadly mistaken.

Phoenix in Phlames!

This Phoenix smoulders and has not risen from the ashes of my defeat

FOUR…

In desperation at being thwarted by four WIPs at once I decided to fall back to socks. However, rather than go with just vanilla socks to get my mojo back, I had to try another experimental idea and cast-on the socks in a weird way.

That prototype crashed rather spectacularly. It’s so bad it will be a challenge even to rip it out!

FIVE…
Meanwhile, I’ve been working on a quilt top for a blanket for a baby grandchild of a friend of my mothers. The blocks for the quilt top demand a bit of accuracy around the depth of seam. My sewing machine didn’t feel like complying so I’d completed 90% of the blocks by fudging it. I’ve just found the instruction booklet for my sewing machine and figured out how to set the 1/4″ seam.

Now I’m wondering should I rip out the other blocks and redo them with the correct seam allowance. Or fudge the last six blocks and fudge sewing the blocks together. It’s hard to know which would be more challenging to do. It’s pretty depressing that WIPs in knitting, crochet AND sewing are ALL conspiring against me :-(

SIX…
Having worked into a dead-end on all the things I need to make it was time to retrace some steps and get back on track. I decided the slouchy beret was the easiest to tackle. A new pattern – Pizzelle Beret by Linda Permann (from my library) would also be a great slouchy beret. But it had to be in a solid yarn. I decided on Textiles A Mano Caricia in Sea Glass – green which I had got with Nightfall (above) when I was in Janel Laidman’s Illuminations Sock Club. They were intended to be used together in colourwork sock patterns so it made sense (to me) that if I was using one skein for a pair of gloves for one teacher I should use the other skein for a present for another teacher. Perfectly logical, no?

And then I got all illogical. The more I worked on the pattern the more the yarn – despite being luxurious, with 10% cashmere – began to remind me of Baby acrylic double-knitting yarn that I *used* to have in my stash yonks ago. I got so illogical, I had to stop working on the pattern even though I was really enjoying it.

Pizzelle in Textiles A Mano Caricia "Seaglass" colourway

I’m prejudiced against this colour

SEVEN…
Since there was nothing wrong with the pattern I decided to poll a few other colour options on twitter.

Alternative colour options

I opted for the Raspberry colour (bottom left) because someone suggested “Raspberry Beret”

After making good progress I realised I had somehow managed to set up SEVEN repeats rather than the six required in the pattern. There was no redeeming this and the whole hat had to be ripped back to the start.

So there you have it: I’m being thwarted by no less than seven WIPs at once!

What’s my answer? Why, Start another WIP, of course! Lucky number EIGHT, eh?

Potential

I was struck recently by a very strange and disturbing thought. Cue the ominous music… doo-dee-doo-dee…

I was having lunch with one of my colleagues and noticed his hands, which are frail and  – well – old. It dawned on me that these people I work with are the people I will grow old with. It struck me that the likelihood of me having a life-changing event  – such as getting pregnant and going on maternity leave  – was fading fast. (For the record, I’ve no desire to get pregnant but it is a pretty life-changing event!)

(Aside: This is assuming I’m lucky! I could have a life-changing event – such as an illness, either me or a member of my family – if I’m unlucky. That doesn’t bear thinking about, not here anyway.)

In short, the potential for change was disappearing.

I’m in my early forties. Up until now I’d always assumed the world was my oyster and anything imaginable was possible (within the bounds of physics!). To reiterate the warning from the opening sequence of Stingray “Anything could happen in the next 30 minutes”.

Stingray Annual 1993

Stand By For Action!

It’s disconcerting to face-up to the realisation that I know exactly what will happen in the next 30 minutes! Even worse, established daily or weekly routines are likely to remain unchanged for the foreseeable future.

I’ve always said that I wanted to grow old disgracefully. “Rage, rage against the dying of the light” and all that. I’m happy to let my hair go grey and let my mood grow cantankerous. Most of all, I want to be healthy enough to enjoy living vibrantly. So growing old doesn’t worry me, other than acquiring some health conditions along the way.

But I don’t want to grow bitter. I want to be able to look back with pride on my achievements. And I do – mostly. I have three wonderful children, who make me so proud and happy as I watch them grow into decent and honourable humans; my husband and I have worked wonders on our home over the past twelve months to make the very fabric as happy as we are; and I have enjoyed a rich and varied career (if we gloss over the past five years).

An aside, in part explanation of my reference to the past five years: Since the collapse of the Irish economy in 2008 I’ve been waiting for the “other shoe to drop” as the phrase goes. The work I do is heavily based on funding from Central Government, who in turn have been in hock to the Troika (The IMF, European Central Bank & the European Commission). Our Department has lumbered along, keeping our roles meaningful by trying to be as indispensable as possible, all while under a cosh of the euphemistically titled “Workforce Planning” i.e. that our Department might be disbanded and the staff reallocated.

As my sister pointed out to me, I have taken up knitting (and crochet, spinning, quilting, you-name-it) over the past five years to the extent that I have (for which read “somewhat obsessively”) because of an inherent need for creativity that was no longer being satisfied in my Architectural career. When I first got back into knitting during 2007 and discovered resources for learning such as Knitty’s Coffeeshop and Ravelry my creative juices exploded!

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Lacy Cropped Cardigan being re-sized to different gauge

Each new technique I learned led to new design ideas: a striped, felted bag using short-rows; a double-knit vest; a top-down hat with a lace pattern generated using Debbie New’s Cellular Automatoms. I saw everything in terms of knitting or crochet patterns. In the queue for a lunchtime sandwich I could reverse engineer the sweater of the person in front of me. I could then spend the afternoon snatching moments to sketch ideas in my notebook. I was fascinated, enthralled, energised!

Today, that same notebook, which I always keep in my wallet, is so tattered and worn that I have decided it needs to be retired. I went through it and marked all the design ideas. I was surprised to discover how far back they all date from – 2008 to 2010. And absolutely nothing in it after my failed Knitty submission (read it and weep!).

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Potential Energy

Also today, I read a fabulous post by Elanor King of Catchloops.com all about how she became a designer in a recent publication by CoOperative Press, Hitch. She’s achieving exactly what I hoped would happen for me. But she went out and actively grabbed it for herself. With gumption and obvious design talent, she dared and won. Me? Other than the two months I spent preparing my Knitty submission I haven’t done much more about establishing myself in the knitting milieu than faff about on twitter. Did I imagine I would be randomly discovered and propelled into stardom, like some bus girl working in a dive in Hollywood? Actually,  yes, that would lovely, thanks.

No. Today as I retired my old Moleskine I resolved to release “so much potential in such a small space” (as @Knitterotica put it). There are at least 12 potential patterns in there: a mixture of women’s and men’s sweaters, some hats, some accessories. A collection, if you will. I’m resolving to transform the potential into reality and to publish (either self-publish or through the establish venues) one pattern per month – on average.

Will you cheer me on?

Posted in Pattern. Tags: . 21 Comments »

65km for Crumlin

Last time I spoke with you I was preparing for the Flora Women’s Mini-marathon on the June Bank Holiday weekend. That was a 10k race that I was taking part in to raise money for Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin. What I didn’t mention is that the 10k was part of 65k I decided to run for the Charity this year.

It all started with a friend of a friend of mine mentioning her training for a half-marathon. Despite the fact that she said it nearly killed her, it put the notion in my head. Combined with the realisation that neither my sister or my niece (her daughter) could run the Mini-marathon this year, I decided I should up-the-anti for myself a notch: I should run a half-marathon!

Every year as part of the training schedule for the Dublin Marathon the organisers run a race series in the Phoenix Park. Starting at 5 miles and finishing with a half-marathon, the race series is run over several months and the distances tie in with typical training schedules. I decided I would run all of the races in the race series – 5 miles, 10k, 10 miles & half-marathon. Combined with the Flora 10k it totalled 65k spread over 5 races.

Off to a bad start

The Women’s Mini-marathon went well – I ran it one second faster than last year. 10k down, 55 to go! However, on the eve of the 5k race I came down with a mad stomach bug. Now, I never get sick (thank goodness) so the uncontrolled vomiting and diarrhoea threw me as much psychologically as it did physically! Enough said already… Though I felt recovered by morning, DH threatened to sit on me if I tried to go in to the race.

Triumph to Misery and back again

Because of this unexpected set-back my bid to complete the remaining 55k of my 65k challenge couldn’t get underway for another 3 weeks. In the spirit of a picture says a thousand words may I save myself a lot of typing, and you a lot of reading by presenting you with this:

Yes, action-shots of me running – more specifically (from left to right) during the Fingal 10k, the Frank Duffy 10 mile and the Half-marathon.

I ran the Fingal 10k with my knitting buddy, @orlamcgann. It was her first time to run this distance and I was very proud to do it with her.

I ran the Frank Duffy 10 miles after coming back from holidays in France and – more importantly – after not being able to get out for a run in two weeks. As the picture shows, I had a fairly miserable time of it! Before I had even gone halfway my feet started aching. My hips started giving me grief around 7 miles and when I had been running for 1 hour & 40 minutes I tried to walk for five minutes instead. In fact, I was worse off when I tried to run again and I struggled over the line after 2 hours and 5 mins. (2:04:37 was my official time).

I learned from my mistake and before I ran the Half-marathon I put in a few 2-hour running sessions and I got on fine (i.e. was not a crock during or after). Surprisingly, I got a cramp in my calf after only one hour of running. I had another 8 miles or 90mins of running to go and I felt quite panicked. I pulled in and stretched; I walked for a few minutes; I even changed my running style back to striking with my heel first. Mostly, I just gritted my teeth, reminded myself there were kids in Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin, who would love to walk, let alone run; and I kept ploughing on towards the finish line. I even managed to look like I was smiling for the camera (though it may be the gritted teeth). I made it in 02:34:39, which amazed and thrilled me!

To make up for missing the 5mile race in the Phoenix Park Race Series I signed up for a 5 mile race in the Docklands on 30th September. This was a really well organised race AND FLAT! and I thoroughly enjoyed it. DH’s cousin was running the 20mile race that day i.e. he ran four laps of the course I ran. After I had run a mile or so we passed each other, going in opposite directions – he was nearing the end of his third lap. Before I had even reached the halfway point of my lap he over-took me!! A month later he ran the Dublin Marathon in 03:09:33!!! He only took up running a year ago! *grumblegrumble* And before you try to console me that maybe he has an advantage of age, he doesn’t. He does have longer legs than me – which wouldn’t be hard.

Thanks for reading all about my adventures as I followed through on my self-imposed challenge. I’d like to remind you that it was all for a worthy cause: the Crumlin Medical Research Fund (and not, actually, about what I have gained emotionally or physically!). If you have sent them a donation thank you so much – it makes the effort worthwhile. I really appreciate it.

If you haven’t had a chance yet to sponsor me, here’s the link again: http://www.cmrf.org/sponsorshipPage/show/1055

Remember, I run for charity so that you don’t have to !!! :-)

I’ve been meaning to…

I’ve been meaning to post here a few times recently. There were communion weekends (actually two communions in one weekend – I kid you not!) and confirmation-with-Grandmother-birthday-weekends and #twilting days and lots of lovely things to distract me from posting here.

What can I say?

Mea Culpa (which I always assumed was a phrase in Irish, when I was growing up)

So, I’m here now – and with good reason! I’m looking for money off you.

“Whu?” I hear you say, bemused. Well you can quit your obfuscation! I do this every year – or, at least for the past four years.

Yes, Since 2009 I have taken part in the Flora’s Women’s Mini-Marathon, raising funds for CMRF. I use “taking part” in the loosest meaning of the word. The first year – 2009 – I had two training buddies and we walked/ran the route as I assayed the limits of my pelvic floor!

The next year I trained on my own but only managed to reach week 7 of the Couch to 5K programme. So I walked for 5 minutes, ran for 20, walked for 10 minutes, ran for 20 and walked the five or so minutes that was left to get to the finish line. By this stage I had bitten the running bug so I kept running until the 8k run for Simon Community in the Phoenix Park in October 2010.

When it came to the Women’s Mini-Marathon in 2011 I managed to run it (to my surprise!) in less than 60 minutes.

This year I’ll be starting the Mini-marathon in the fast-runners section! I’m frickin’ flabbergasted! Last year my sister and her daughter ran it also and all three of us came in within 90 seconds of each other.  I had envisaged the three of us starting off from the same point, and at the same time, this year but – alas! – it is not to be. My neice has her Junior Cert this year and my sister has to attend a conference that weekend. So this year it will be only me – raising money for a worthy cause: Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital via their charity: The Crumlin Medical Research Facility.

If you would like to support this worthy cause – through my efforts on June 4th – please click on this link: http://www.cmrf.org/fundraiser/show?id=56

I would really appreciate the support and the hospital will really appreciate the funds – thanks in advance.

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