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?

Muse: Trials and Tribulations

Over the past six weeks I’ve been through the mill.

Not a woolen mill where I was metaphorically transformed from fluffy fleece to workable yarn. No, a stone-mill where the wheat gets sorted from the chaff.

I learned whether I was wheat or chaff!

Trial By Jury

In non-chronological order I had three trials over the past while, the first being applying for a new position where I work. It was an internal competition for a temporary position that would have taken me out of Architecture and into mainstream Administration and Management. That’s essentially what I’m doing these days anyway, there being very little Architecture in the pipeline these days.

I applied at the end of April and didn’t know if I would even get short-listed. I got word that I made the grade two days before the interview. I did my best to prepare but I remember feeling that I was at the very limit of my own intellect and ability in the process. The interview was so-so. They asked some excellent questions – questions that I really wish I had an answer for, questions that brought it home to me that I wasn’t in the right league at all. My immediate feeling on leaving the room was that I wouldn’t have given me the job.

With the benefit of  hind-sight I realise I should have been preparing mini-essays and reading-up from the moment I submitted the application form five weeks earlier. Hopefully there will be a next time and I can make use of this insight.
The process was useful to help me realise also that I’m being held-back – possibly deliberately – by those in my current workplace. I need to tackle this but as yet I haven’t got my head around how to do so.

Knitty-Trial

While I was disappointed that I hadn’t acquitted myself better in the interview I was sanguine about it given the lack of effort and preparation I had given the opportunity. It’s hard to accept defeat or failure when you have given something your all. Which brings me to the sad tale of my Knitty submission. Unfortunately, I received word – in the form of a very nice email with really positive feedback – that my pattern submission was rejected. Amy Singer said she loved the pattern and gave special mention to the photography (which was pretty awesome, thanks to DH) but because they rarely print kids patterns “so it’s extra hard to get through in this category”.

Dejected doesn’t cover how I felt. In a word, I was devastated, irrational as that may seem. I knew they rarely print kids’ patterns but I was audacious / arrogant enough to think that this pattern had something more that would over-come this hurdle. Plus, I deliberately sized the pattern to cover from toddlers to teens.

For now, I’m still licking my wounds. Amy suggested I submit the pattern to Petite Purls but for now I’m sitting on it and wondering how best to give it a debut.  Once bitten, twice shy and all that; I’m unsure I’ll put myself “out there” as a designer again.

Endurance Test

Since I like to focus on the positive rather than the negative I’ve got to give you my tribulation. As many of you know I’ve been donning running shoes (and questionable outfits) and training for the Women’s Mini-Marathon. This is my third year to take part (fourth to sign-up :-0) and my first year to have trained sufficiently. By Race-Day last year the longest I had run continuously was 20minutes. I decided to do a back-to-back of my longest training run so I walked for five minutes, ran for 20, walked for 10 mins, ran for another 20 then walked the rest of the way. My time was sufficiently good that I was allowed to enter as a fast-jogger this year.

This year I started my training earlier and was more diligent about sticking with it. As I came close to the end of the 9-week “Couch To 5K” training programme (C25k) – where I was running 20 to 25 minutes continuously – I found a training schedule on Action Aid’s website for running 10k and I started to adapt the last few weeks of C25k to suit. It mainly meant adding an extra run on a Friday and lengthening my other runs during the week or doing some speed-training called “Fartleks”.

Before the race this year I got chatting with a fellow fast-jogger who has a few London and Dublin Marathons under her belt. She had a similar target time of 75 minutes. I told her of my plan to walk for the first five minutes, run for 60 then walk for the last five as a five-minute walk was the warm-up in my training sessions. As it turned out, when the race started everyone around me took off at a run. If I had tried to walk, I would have either been trampled or caused an accident. Denise, my new “running-mate” cheered me to go for it, that I would be fine. So I did.

To my amazement, I finished the 10k just (literally) under one hour, clocking-in officially at 59minutes 52 seconds. Elated, thrilled, ecstatic don’t fully cover how gob-smackingly amazed I am at having done this. I even wonder did I really run the whole route. Surely I must have missed a kilometer or two?

My sister and my neice (her daughter) were also running and we all finished within 90 seconds of each other. My neice passed me just after 9km and called out to me. I called back (we were both wearing head-phones so we’re pretty sure we were absolutely roaring at each other!) that she shouldn’t wait for me, I’d slow her down. However, I tried to keep her in my sights for the last kilometer. That was the push I needed to get me over the line under 60 minutes.

That the three of us will managed to complete the race in less than 60 minutes this year means we will all be in the “Runners” enclosure at the start of the race next year. Then the *real* competition will start!

So in one case I was found to be chaff, in another I was whole-wheat goodness while the Knitty trial still chaffs (see what I did there?!?)

In all cases, I guess, it’s all grist to my mill.

Not a One-WIP-Wonder

Before I get full on into my quilting adventure – and boy am I ready to start! – I need to pause and take stock of my other craft interests. (I haven’t finished talking about my Rhinebeck adventures yet, don’t worry!)

I’ll deal with my spinning efforts in a separate post but, for the sake of giving a reckoning: I think I have about three spinning projects underway. If I decide to ply others, that brings my total of unfinished spinning projects up to five.

In terms of Knitting / Crochet WIPs at the moment, I’ve got three on the go – that I’m aware of(!). One is in “active service”; one on time-out; and another one hibernating through no fault of its own – that old nemesis Time made me put it there to focus on the other two.

The “Active Service” WIP is Sherwood which I’m making for DS1 – possibly for his birthday at the end of the month (if I can get it done in time).Sherwood in Peat
I’m using RY Classic Yarns “Silk Cotton” by Rowan in “Peat” colourway. I’m enjoying the pattern though I keep making mistakes with where the cabling stops and starts. At least I can tink down and fix them; but Cotton is very unforgiving about it.

These socks are from another pattern on Knitty.com – Lickety Split. The original pattern is for a tabi-toe sock with Intarsia details of Japanese text. Mine is a much simpler version in TOFUtsies by South West Trading Company in the “Put Your Foot Down” Colourway.

Pilates SocksBroken Stitch
I decided on these in anticipation of a quick-knit for my October credit on the Sock-a-Month KAL. I started the first sock on the plane over to Rhinebeck (Oct 15th) and was turning the heel on the plane home (Oct 18th/19th). This may sound really fast but actually, when I tell you that the time between casting-on and turning-the-heel on the 2nd sock was a mere 24 hours you’ll realise how little knitting I actually did at Rhinebeck!

All was going swimmingly and I was making headway into the anklet cuff with 24hours to spare on the Oct 31st deadline when a stitch spontaneously broke a row or so down. So the deadline was missed and they’ve been in “Time-Out” since. <<insert Raspberry noise here>>

They please me much more when they are hidden in the gorgeous box-bag I got from Sweensie at her Etsy shop.

Sweensie BoxBag
The WIP I really want to be progressing on is my beautiful Petals Wrap Cardigan from “Crochet So Fine” by Kristen Omdahl. It’s the one pictured on the cover of the book below.

Petals Wrap

I promised myself this as a reward for finishing DH’s Cardigan but Deadlines – such as the two WIPs above – keep getting in the way. The yarn is Alpaca Lace from Dublin Dye Company dyed in a gorgeous purple with subtle navy tones. I love it and it’s a great marriage of pattern and yarn (I think, so far at least).

Soon my precious… soon.

Choices, Choices

The last time I had a Choosey Tuesday I asked your opinion on which yarn I should use for my Annis (the Knitty Surprise in the Spring / Summer 2010 edition of Knitty).

I had four to chose from:

Annis Ol' Yarn, Annis Ol' Yarn, Annis Annis Annis Ol' Yarn

From the top:

and I said I’d give a prize to whoever came up with the most convincing argument for which one I should use.

I got four replies (from Deirdre, Mairead, Laura and Sinead) who – though not conclusive – gave me plenty to mull over.

  • Like Deirdre, I’ve a pro-purple tendency so we were down to three pretty quickly;
  • Plus, I love a good word play, which made me pre-disposed to Mairead’s choice of Rayon Vert;
  • But I shared Laura’s concern that the Rayon Vert would have to much contrast in the variagation for the lacework.
  • I was very taken by Sinead argument as she extolled the virtues of knitting with Dream in Color Smooshy, which also got a vote from Deirdre.

Contrary person that I am, however, it was Sinead’s argument for Dream in Color Smooshy that finally convinced me to go with the Misti Alpaca. I know… I’m ornery! You see, I’ve  realised recently that I can’t wear alpaca close to my skin – it makes me itch. So my logic was that I should keep the awesome Dream in Color Smooshy for a nice pair of socks for me (shoot me if I forget this in the future and start to make it into socks for DH; ‘mkay?).

So here it is: the finished (and finally blocked) Annis in Misti Alpaca Handpainted yarn:

Misti Alpaca Annis

I really enjoyed knitting this and – now that it’s been blocked – I’m thrilled with the finished object.

And now for the prize. All of the arguments were convincing and had their own merit. I really appreciate the time and trouble people took to offer me their opinions. (Even if I completely ignore it and go off an do my own thing anyway!) After some delibertion I’ve decided to pick a name at random and the winner is:

Deirdre!

Choix d’Annis

Selection Box of Treats

Last week, I was feeling very over-whelmed and I decided I needed some me-time. For many of my female colleagues “me-time” would involve getting a facial, a hair-cut or shopping for new shoes. These things would be living hell for me – especially now that the only hairdresser I’ve trusted in years has run off to Jersey to get married, the cheek of him!

No, my idea of me-time is to take out all my sock weight yarn and try to decide which pattern to make with each: heaven!

The box on the right doesn’t represent all of my sock-weight yarn – not by a long-shot! Instead, it’s a a little box of treats: a selection box of those skeins I hope to knit this year. Considering there’s 12 projects there and only six months left in the year, I’ll be doing well to get them all done!  But it will certainly be fun trying.

Annis Ol' Yarn, Annis Ol' Yarn, Annis Annis Annis Ol' Yarn

From the top:

So which one do you reckon will be best for Annis (the Knitty Surprise in the Spring / Summer 2010 edition of Knitty)… and why!

Answers in the comments here and I will give a prize to whoever comes up with the most convincing argument for any of the four yarns above.

Extra! Extra!

When my e-friend Bridget – a regular commenter here – mentioned on her blog that she had an article in the Winter Issue of Interweave Knits I was gutted. Yes, gutted. Why? because my subscription was up so I’d have to employ devious means to get to read her article.  

Or so I thought…  

When I arrived home yesterday, I was greeted by a pleasant surprise: Winter 09 is my last issue. And they’re none-too-subtle about pointing it out to me! “FINAL NOTICE” !!!!! You’d swear I’d forgotten to pay the gas bill and they were threatening to cut me off!  

Read All About It!!!

 

After I recovered from my bemusement, I remembered that I had got my issue of IK Winter 07 from a member of the Irish Knitters Board, Gilraen, on Ravelry in exchange for my copy of Mason-Dixon Knitting. So, hurrah for me and for IK’s original delay in starting my subscription – every cloud has a silver lining; it takes two years to realise some of them.  

The first thing I did – after ripping off the plastic wrapping – was to read Bridget’s Article. It was a great story about her trials and tribulations as she slogged her way through a year of knitting ten pairs of socks to give as gifts the following Christmas.  

It made me realise that I still haven’t given you all a full accounting of myself after I embarked on my own Year of Socks: my naive promise – in Christmas 07 – to knit DH a pair of socks each month for the following year.  

I say “naive”. Clearly, I mean “plain-dumb”. When I made the promise I had knit exactly one sock. NOT pair, One! I made the promise as a spur-of-the-moment decision because the present I had *planned* on giving him was this self-same PAIR of socks. Of which I had half. And I had ONLY half a pair because that first sock had taken a twice as long as I’d expected. Not to mention, the foot was an inch longer than it needed to be.  

This should have been a warning sign. Alarm bells should have been ringing in my head. In hindsight, there probably were alarm bells but I’d assumed it was Tinnitus brought on by the stress of knitting this sock.  

To keep me motivated I also joined the Sock-A-Month KAL. So, I may I present my Calender of Socks 2008:  

Click on image for Rav-link to project

January: Sock-A-Month KAL = 1/1

 

January: Socks for DH = 0/1

 

Click for Rav-link to project

February: Sock-A-Month KAL = 2/2

 

Click for Rav-link to project

February: Socks for DH = 0/2

 

Click on the image for Rav-link to project

April: Socks for DH = 2/4; SAM5KAL = 4/4

 

Click on image for Rav-link to Project

March: Socks for DH = 1/3; SAM5KAL = 3/3

 

Click on image for Rav-link to project

July: Socks for DH = 4 out of 7

 

Click on image for Rav-link

May: Socks for DH = 3/5; SAM5KAL = 5/5

 

Click on image for Rav-link

September: Socks for DH = 6/9; SAM5KAL = 8/9

 

August: Socks for DH = 5; SAM5KAL = 7

 

Click on image for Rav-link

November: Socks for DH = 7; SAM5KAL = 10

 

Click on image for Rav-link

October: Socks for DH = 7/10; SAM5KAL = 9/10

 

January: I started the year by trying to finish the Christmas-Present-Socks. Unfortunately, I decided to knit the second sock on metal circulars; whereas the first was knit on Bamboo DPNs. When I realised the socks were cursed (I was getting a pair of Little’n’Large) I abandoned them and opted instead to knit a pair of kid’s socks so that I’d at least get a credit on the Sock-A-Month 5 KAL. It wouldn’t do to just knit a pair of plain – oh no! I had to design them, based on EZ’s Fishtrap Aran. My Cheer-Me-Up Socks – which were intended for my DD, but which ended up only fitting her younger brother – were finished on the last day of January.
January’s score: DH – 0; SAM5KAL – 1 

February: Started “Hidden Passion Socks“, from Favourite Socks, for DH thinking I’d get them done in time for Valentine’s Day – bleuch! Realised after I’d turned the heel of the first sock (some time in mid-Feb!) that I should have been working in stripes or I’d run out of one colour.  These got frogged while I quickly double-knit two tubes and stuck “after-thought heels” in on the last day of February in order to qualify for a credit in SAM5. Thank Goodness it was a Leap Year that year!
February’s score: DH – 0; SAM5KAL – 2 

March: I started the Hidden Passion Socks again but this time I re-wrote the pattern so that I could make them toe-up and two-at-a-time. What’s more… I finished them! And I started another pair, “Diagonal Cross-Rib” from Favourite Socks, in anticipation of April – I was wisening up. March’s score: DH – 1; SAM5KAL – 3 

April: Abandoned the Diagonal Cross-Rib socks in mid-April when I realised that the stitch-pattern was taking too much time. Cast-on “Back-to-Basics” instead. And finished them within the month! April’s score: DH – 2; SAM5KAL – 4 

May: My version of Undulating Rib from Favourite Socks were toe-up; whereas the pattern is written cuff-down. So I called them “Bir gNitaludnu” – that’s Undulating Rib backwards – geddit? May’s score: DH – 3; SAM5KAL – 5 

June: I got busy with knitting gifts and abandoned sock knitting this month! June’s score: Socks for DH – 3; SAM5KAL – 5 

July: Cat Bordhi’s book “New Pathways for Sock Knitters” must have arrived into my life around this time. Suddenly all my socks became a collation between patterns in Favourite Socks and one of her Sockitectures. July combined “Cable Rib” socks with her Upstream Sockitecture. Started in June, finished in July. DH – 4; SAM5KAL – 6 

August: I picked up my “April” Socks again and entered them into the Ravelympics under the event “WIPs-wrestling” And I finished them too!
August’s score: DH – 5; SAM5KAL – 7 

September: Another collation this month between Mock Cable Wave from Favourite Socks and Cat Bordhi’s Riverbed Sockitecture. Technically, my “Babbling Brook” socks were done in August but I fear I may have held off posting them on SAM5 KAL until September to make sure I got a credit that month. September’s score: DH – 6; SAM5KAL – 8 

October: I called these “Tornado Toes” because they started with a Whirlpool cast-on from Cat Bordhi’s book and the pattern is her “Spiraling Coriolis” which affected the colour-changes in the yarn to produce this gorgeous Whirlwind effect. I was thrilled with these socks – they fit DH beautifully too. October’s score: DH – 7; SAM5KAL – 9 

November: On my return from The Irish Knitter’s Weekend Away I discovered that, not only had DH been minding our three kids, he’d decided to do the laundry and had inadvertently tumble-dryed and felted his March socks. I quickly released myself from my commitment to knit him any more socks. My next pair of socks were for me – my long-awaited “Monkey” by Cookie A. I decided to make these toe-up, however, and Cat-Bordhi-ize them. I called them “Simian” because they’re not quite Monkeys – they’re … similar! November’s score: DH – 7; SAM5KAL – 10 

December: I’ve no recollection of knitting any socks in December and certainly I became disillusioned with the Sock-A-Month KAL. December’s score was zero all round.
Overall score for the year: DH got seven pairs of socks; I got one; I frogged 3 and re-knit 1. Overall: Socks completed =10. Socks started? Who knows, I lost count.
Edited to add a poll (really coz I want to figure-out how)
Vote for your Favourite pair all those I knit for DH

These are made of WIN!

You may remember this:

It’s the skein of yarn I received from Bridget last Hallowe’en. Not just any skein, you’ll notice.  A skein of Luxury Sock Yarn especially dyed by Carol of Black Bunny Fibres during last year’s US Presidential Election in the colour way: Unity. The photo doesn’t do just to the colour any justice. If it were a wine you’d say things like: “I’m getting notes of saphire, aquamarine and cobalt”.

The result of the election meant that Victory Socks were on the cards. Initially I thought of  Hedera, from Knitty, since the lace pattern created a plethora of little Vs.

Being me, I had to do them toe-up. For a toe-up version of the Vs i.e. to stop them from just being arrows that point up my leg instead; I needed to invert the lace pattern. Very quickly I ran into a problem – a.k.a. learning opportunity: the lace pattern includes [sl1, k2tog, psso] which allows you to decrease two stitches centred over a middle stitch. I tried a few versions of this but nothing was really working. In the end I just designed my own sock pattern altogether.

I used Cat Bordhi’s Master Upstream for the overall structure of the sock. Starting with Judy’s Magic Cast-on I increased the toe to the required number for the Hedera Pattern and started by establishing the columns of twisted rib. I tried out a series of big Vs accross the instep, using 10 rounds to form each pattern. Then I fretted that it was all taking too much time – the date for the inauguration was looming.

To step up the pace I opted for a fagotting rib, separated by the columns of twisted rib, in three panels accross the instep. When I had gone far enough on the foot I used yarn-overs to make the increases for the arch expansion. This formed a Big V from the centre of my foot and divertedided a column of faggoting rib along each side.

The arch expansion section was treated with [yo, ssk] on one side and [yo, k2tog] on the other creating diagonal lines of sloping lace flowing from instep to back of heel.

Then, fearing that the loose laciness would never stay up above my ankles I switched again to ribbing – ala Fishtrap Aran from EZ.

The over all socks are a bit of a mish-mash – not a pattern for general consumption, I’m afraid. They are greater than the sum of their parts, however – a bit like the Man himself and the country he now governs.