Annus Horribilis

annus horribilis /anəs hɒˈriːbɪlɪs/noun
1. a year of disaster or misfortune.

If you’ve read my earlier posts from this year you’ll know I’ve seriously struggled to have anything to show for all my fibre-crafting efforts. The rest of the year hasn’t shown much improvement.

Last time I posted I was heading off on a 10 week adventure of parental leave from work with a box full of yarn and a head full of pattern ideas.

Picture of design box of yarn

Travelling companions

The first pattern I wanted to write was a hat I had knit for myself years ago. I had called it “Whirling Dervish” – those of you that know my name in real-life (and especially if you’ve seen my dance moves!) might have a smirk creeping over your face right now at this play on words. I thought this pattern would make a great start considering I had taken the rare precaution of making notes as I knit it. “Low-hanging fruit” is the catch-phrase du jour in my workplace these days.
But oh dear, my notes…

Chart notes for Whirling Dervish Hat

Looks like some of my decreases are plotting their escape!

I made the original had in a softly-plied, bulky alpaca yarn that I can’t recall any details of, and never uploaded to Ravelry. I also managed to lose the hat before taking any pictures of it! Anyway, I decided my skein of handspun, Eyjafjallajokull, could be a suitable substitute.

The Whirling Dervish pattern was so-named because it started with a whirlpool cast-on. My handspun didn’t like that idea very much!

Swatch for Whirling Dervish in Eyjafjallajokull

Ideal for a nipple-hat – just not the look I wanted

I quickly abandoned the Whirling Dervish design and decided Judy’s Magic Cast-on would be more appropriate using this yarn. Soon a pattern for a fedora-style hat emerged. I got side-tracked into making and designing a felted version and am considering short-row shaping on the crown for a truer fedora look. So there are potentially three hat patterns brewing but no written pattern yet to show for these experiments.

I moved on from there to designing and making a t-shirt from three skeins of Handmaiden Fine Yarn Silken that I had in my stash. Three skeins equated to 750 meters, which I thought would be ample for a short-sleeved sweater. After I completed the back I was worried that I would run out of yarn. I considered a back-up plan of using a contrasting colour on the sleeves if I did.

As I progressed up the front it was a touch-and-go race against yarn. Then, just before I started the armhole shaping, I did a cross-check on my stitch-count and discovered that I had cast-on 10 stitches too few! All that I had knit on the front had to be ripped out. What’s more, I was absolutely certain I would not have enough yarn. Yet another project went on the back-burner!

My next effort was to attempt to progress a design for a matching hat and mitten set in Dublin Dye Company’s Swing Sock yarn. Unfortunately, this coincided with us getting keys to our new house and then my MIL coming to visit so I was never able to give it the head-space it demanded. It smolders still…

After we returned back to Ireland (still with my box containing only yarn and no finished objects or written patterns) I ordered additional skeins of HandMaiden Silken. The ball on the left is the original yarn; on the right is the more recent dyelot. Can’t I catch a break? Le sigh!

Picture of Handmaiden Silken

Same colourway, different dyelots

So, dear reader, am I exaggerating by calling this year Annus Horribilus? It certainly hasn’t been all that productive or successful despite my efforts. However, as my dear knit-night buddy @Midweshterner pointed out to me (and I’m paraphrasing, because she put it more eloquently) the reason I’m not succeeding is because I’m trying such experimental things.

Recently, I came across the Helsinki Bus Station Theory in relation to creativity and design. The gist of it is: too often we bail too soon on a project that’s failing. Or we prevent ourselves gaining experience and confidence by focussing only on success. Rather than decide the bus we’re on isn’t going anywhere or taking us in the wrong direction we should try to stay on the bus and enjoy the journey of discovery. The final destination is more likely to be where we will really feel comfortable. So I’ve tried to stay on the bus. And I’ve tried to put in the time.

And recently things have started to turn the corner. In the past month I have:

  • sent off a design submission to Knitscene
  • finished the Silken t-shirt – photographed it and am in the process of writing up the pattern
  • spun most of the yarn needed for a sweater (another sweater design in progress)
  • started swatching for two new garment designs

I’m hopeful that as I “Stay on the fucking bus.” I’ll soon have something tangible produced from all this potential.

Tell me, dear reader: What have you triumphed with because you persevered?

Procrastination

It may amuse you to know that I decided on the name of this blog post a week ago. Yet… here I am… only getting to it now!

You may also not be surprised to learn that when I was reading the book “Time Management for Manic Mums” I got stuck on the chapter that dealt with procrastination.

Yes, somehow, Procrastination and I are long-time, close companions and I can’t say that I feel much benefit from the relationship. Today, I am attempting to get the upper hand by using it as a theme and thereby – perversely – as a motivation to tackle this long-outstanding blog-post.

WIPdown

Petals Wrap and the Hideous Dress of Wrong are Procrastination’s best allies and despite taking Petals with me on a week away after Easter I haven’t done much to make a dint in either WIP.

‘nuf said!

StashDown

It’s acutally surprising how reticent I’ve been on my blog in the past month because I’ve accumulated no less than four FOs!

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    Spring-time

  1. Spring as Spun – you may remember me finishing off the yarn for this in the previous post. While I procrastinated about making the yarn for months, and then about plying it for a few more months, making it into an FO took only two days. I cast-on on March 19th and was casting-off the following evening. I made 198 yds. of Heaven and had literally only enough yarn. Though I enjoyed making it, and I’m delighted with the FO, I do think the yarn would have been better used in a faux-fair-isle project of some sort: the colour changes were so delicate, and my decision to nav-ply the yarn so that these subtitles would be preserved, meant the yarn could have worked very well in colourwork with a strong contrast colour. [Yarn knit = 184m]
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    Lesser Spotted Socks

  3. Golf socks – after my last post (mid-March), I realised my mother’s birthday was fast approaching in early April. She has been a happy recipient of my knit-wear in the past so I decided on a quick pair of socks: Golf Socks from the book Socks, Socks, Socks in Austermann Step. I started them on March 24th and finished them on April 3rd – just in time to post them off for her birthday. The hand of this yarn is great, infused as it is in Jojoba and Aloe Vera but I didn’t care much for the measley-look of the colourway. However, my mother pronounced my workmanship as fantastic and – I think – was delighted with the idea of handknit socks especially for her golf-obsession. [Yarn knit = 210m]
  4. 3 wombs – suffice to say that after much jiggery-pokery (no pun intended) I finally managed to find someone in the US willing to receive my wombs and pass them on to “worthy” public representatives. Much thanks to Elise Cohen, one of the moderators for the Ravelry Group government free v-jj, for hooking me up (pun intended) with Laura Hirsh of Day Spa & Gift Boutique, Sierra Madre, CA. I believe Laura has put one on display in the window of her business to raise awareness of the effort. I’ve promised her a more-carefully-crafted womb in a chunky yarn (to make it larger) for her to put on display instead. [Yarn knit = unknown!]
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    Sisters! Doin' it for themselves!


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    Pheasant Enough

  6. Multnomah – I started this (I don’t remember why) in early March and put it away again after a day when I realised that deadline-knitting was looming. I was on holiday for a week after Easter Sunday in West Cork and brought this project with me. It was a good choice since most of my knitting time was also chatting time and there would have been no way I could have focussed on the Petals Wrap, which I also brought. I finished it a few days after returning to Dublin. I had some struggles with the cast-off but all worked out well in the end. [Yarn knit = 373m]
I’ve managed to de-stash at least 767m of yarn – more if I knew how much yarn I’d used in the wombs!

Lacealong2012

My last post contained images of me wearing Shrug for Blue Dress and my concern about whether it fit. I was persuaded by commenters, here and on twitter, that it does so I have determined to extend the sleeves with the remaining 14g of Malabrigo Yarn Lace. I’m using the ribbed lace chart in the pattern for now; and intend to finish off with the scalloped lace chart when I have only a gram or two of yarn left.

12in12

So between Multnomah and Spring As Spun I’m now up to three shawls this year. Considering we’re nearing the end of the fourth month I am a little behind. My next shawls will both be for my children’s teachers. I just need to decide what they might like – colour-wise, especially – and what yarn I have in my stash to sufficient quantities. One teacher likes green, apparently – DD asked her straight-out what her favourite colour was and then pretended she was doing a survey of how many people in the class liked green. MC advises his teacher wears the colours of France, which I take to mean the French Flag. All I have gathered is that her coat is black and that she has, on occaision worn a red hat or a blue hat.

I had initially thought about Haruni by Emily Ross but this requires more skeins than I have available. I liked Gingko too but on closer inspection I wonder if it’s not just another version of Ishbel. Nothing wrong with that, really, but I do like to try new ideas rather than variations on a theme.

I’ve been doing a bit of drilling through Ravelry’s database, looking first at what fingering weight yarn I have in green and then at pattern ideas for those yarns. It has been a useful exercise that has thrown up some suggestions I would not have automatically considered.

Gems from the Web

I had the pleasure, last Saturday (14th April) of not just meeting Kate Davies but of also learning a cool new technique – the Steek Sandwich (or as us Irish are calling it “The Schteak Sangidge”). If a person can be described as a gem from the web I’d have to use the term for Kate. If you haven’t come across her blog or her patterns before now please click on the previous links. I’ll wait here until you come back, honest!

I just love how she writes with such intelligence and erudition on so many topics, be they traditional techniques or modern experiences. It is evident in how she elucidates that she has a grounding in academia and research. I’m positively “fly-by-night” in comparison. I remember reading (and commenting on) an article she wrote about Aran Knitting. I remember thinking : Finally, here is someone who has properly understood the history behind Aran Knitting and has carefully investigated and dispelled many myths.

Some time after this, Kate suffered a stroke. She has documented her recovery on her blog and it is another layer of credit to her character and personality how she has willed herself back to full health and fitness.

Wow! Such an inspiring person. One of those rare occasions when you realise you were in the presence of a great lady. Why not say it? Why be bashful on this score. She is amazing and thank all that is good that she survives and thrives.

Oh! and yeah – I want to cut my knitting soooo much now… This was the last remaining technique that I have procrastinated about. After cutting my knitting with the warm support of the other knitters attending the workshop I have driven off any scruples about doing this again.

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Cutting a crocheted steek

Nike+ GPS

One thing I have been seriously procrastinating about over the past month (and beyond) is getting out for a run. Initially, it was fear of further injury that prevented me. Then, when my knee was completely healed and I couldn’t even blame weather or bad timing, I had to force myself to assess why I still procrastinated about getting out for a run. Partially, I felt over-whelmed by the 10k training programme that Nike+ had set for me. It required me to run for 50mins at lunchtime, on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. I was put off. However, that doesn’t explain why I couldn’t have got out for 30mins on some of those days instead?

I had to delve deeper and then I realised I had a fear of running incorrectly.

I know a LOT about knitting and crochet. I’m beginning to learn more about spinning. I am happy for these three subjects to be my primary areas of research and learning. For the rest of my interests, I’m happy to enjoy them without knowing too much. I can sew a few pieces of material together and thereby I quilt; I can put one foot in front of the other slightly faster than I may walk and thereby I run. I don’t really want to wonder or worry too much more about it and I don’t need too until… I need to!

The wonky-knee I suffered in after my run in London stopped me in my tracks(uit!). One of my knitting buddies – who *has* made it her business to know as much about running as she does about knitting – gave me some in-sight into why my knee was suddenly suffering as it was. Much of it was to do with my new runners and specifically the extra cushioning being given to my heel. This was resulting in my coming down too hard on my heel and putting my knee-joint into shock. She advised me to take greater care about how my foot hit the ground with each stride.

I realise now that I had to process this for a few weeks and this was the real reason for my procrastination. I recently decided on a running method that I’m calling “The Ostrich”! I visualise myself as running like an Ostrich – complete with the HUGE ass and “head-in-the-sand” tendencies – and I make sure to strike the ground with the ball of my foot first, as I imagine an Ostrich does. People that I have descibed this running style too have pondered whether it is similar to a style called “Chi-running”. Should I ever get so far as to do a bit of research on this score I might be able to elucidate! All I know is: today I ran over 6k and I’m not feeling any ill-effects in my shins or calf muscles. That’ll do, Ostrich, that’ll do!

WIP-ette

On the last Sunday of February I finally got the chance to join up with other spinners at the monthly Sunday’s Spin-in at Powerscourt. I brought with me the only spinning accoutrements I possess, a beginner’s drop-spindle and some dyed roving that I’d started on the Irish Knitter’s Retreat back in October 2008! I started the afternoon not being able to remember a single thing from the lesson Chicwithstix had given me way back then. However, thanks to the generosity of time and knowledge on the part of Kneehigh, Chicwithstix, DubSpinner, Deimne, Flick and Claire42 it started to come back to me. 

I was determined to finish spinning the roving I had and I learned a few things in the process too; such as dyed roving is more prone to felting and leaving it stuffed in a plastic bag for 18 months is not conducive to easy-spinning. However I did  finish up with this. Art/Novelty-yarn-esque as it is, I’m proud to have got to the end and for learning all that I did. 

Very nice dear.... but what is it?

I had the “yarn” on separate toilet roll centres, all ready for meeting Chicwithstix at the Crafy Market last Sunday, so that she could give me pointers on how to ply them together. And then… I met her scribble lace scarf, knit using beautiful blue hand-spun of her own for the accent yarn. So now my “yarn” is not going to be plied but – with the able-bodied, enabling of Bootie and Clarabel – got partnered with some Drops Kid-silk in beige from The Constant Knitter

When I grow up.... I'll scribble!

I’ve received excellent advice from all the spinners I’ve met recently. The advice I like best of all is from BionicLaura: “spindling for 5 minutes a day will teach you more than an hour once a week” because it means I’m going to have to invest in a whole lot of roving. Roving is just perfect to tide me over while I’m on this strict yarn diet, isn’t it? With this in mind I got 100g of pencil roving from Chicwithstix at the Crafty Market. It’s a Merino Tencel blend that I’m going to spin, dye and then ply. Until then, I just content myself with burying my face in it an inhaling. Aaaah! 

How do you catch a cloud and pin it down...

Oh! my strict yarn diet… I completely forgot! (tee hee!). The main reason we went to the Crafty Market in the first place was to get a chance to see The Constant Knitters’ wares. She did not disappoint and these two balls of Kid-Silk by Drops were purloined with a lacy wrap from Knitting Brioche in mind. 

Planned for "Herfst avond scarf" by Nancy Marchant from "Knitting Brioche"