Friday, January 20, 2017

The Best Laid Plans

Simply Shetland Lambswool and Cashmere yarn.  I love the rich colorways.

Ah, it's always interesting when your actions counter your intentions.  When I talked about my fiber budget in this post I mentioned my local yarn store that's closing and liquidating it's stock.  Well, I went back to purchase some Jamiesons Shetland DK (my absolute favorite yarn brand as Shetland is so durable) with which to make a sweater for my mother, Miss Rachel's Yoke by Kate Davies to be exact (although I intend to steek it and make the pullover into a cardigan), when I saw some other yarn by Simply Shetland (an off shoot of Jamiesons) that was 50% off.  It was Jamiesons attempt to make a more luxury yarn by mixing Shetland with Cashmere.  But what pulled me in so completely was the beautiful colors - especially the yellow curry shade.  I decided right there and then to make the same sweater as I'm making my mom but as a the intended pullover for me.  It was a heck of a steal for such wonderful yarn, and I'm still within my yearly budget, but I certainly did not plan on this purchase.

I have sold some more items, mainly the leftovers to my knitted toy business as well as some yarn, needles and project bags, to help boost my budget back up, but I'm at the halfway point and only 3 weeks into the year.  Sigh.  I really need to stay away from temptation and focus on what I already have.  I feel there are so many temptations and people enabling others to purchase more, but not many on the other side.  Is it just an aspect of our consumerist culture that acquiring is always good?  I saw this on Instagram the other day and it made me feel so good that someone was taking such time and care to renew something old instead of just tossing it.  I want to be that type of person.  I've always loved the saying "Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without." but it really is difficult when the new is so inexpensive and readily accessible.  This really goes into the idea of Slow Fashion, which I think knitting can be a part of, but it can also so easily be about consuming too. If your interested in Slow Fashion there is a great conversation on Instagram started by Karen Templer of Fringe Supply Company.  

It seems to come down to making conscious choices.  So, I will redouble my efforts about really thinking about my purchases and sticking within my fiber budget.  Do you have any techniques for sticking to a budget or goal?    

Friday, January 13, 2017

A Fiber Budget

My now more organized yarn stash.

To buy or not to buy that is the question.  This year I am on a fiber budget to help curb my impulse control and overspending.  It was a joint decision between my husband and I that we need to be more aware of our spending.  Surprisingly, so far I'm finding having a budget is comforting.  What?  Yup, I said comforting.  For instance, my local yarn store is closing (the proprietor wants to retire so good for her, sad for me) thus she is liquidating everything in her store.  I could go crazy shopping, but with the budget that has to last the whole year, multiple fiber events and holiday gift making I simply can't if I'm going to keep my sanity.  So, instead of grabbing anything and everything that suits my fancy I actually mapped out a few projects and took stock of the yarn and needles I already have before purchasing.  And you know what?  I only bought what I planned for and no more.  Wow!  That has never happened to me.  I always come away with something I didn't plan on.  It felt really good to be in control, like really good.

I'm also finding myself figuring out how can I add to my budget.  This has me sorting through my yarn stash, needles, project bags and thinning out what I don't really love.  Basically, I guess I'm simply de-cluttering.  Then, I'm selling those items I've culled with the proceeds going back into my yarn budget.  Thus far I have paid for a class and the teachers dinner for my local fiber fair called Yarnover with these proceeds so my budget hasn't even gone down that much.  Now, this probably won't work for next year, but it is helping ease me into budget life with the added benefit of being more organized.

Since I do have enough yarn for years of future knitting projects, ahem, I am thinking I will save most of my budget for classes, events and experiences.  In Minnesota we have Yarnover and Shepard's Harvest in the Spring and the Fall Fiber Festival in Autumn.  They all have classes and lots of local fiber vendors.  I'm hoping to learn more about Fair Isle knitting from Mary Jane Mucklestone in her class Fresh Fair Isle at Yarnover as well as how to use a knitting belt used by the people of the Shetland Isles from June Hemmons Hiatt at the Yarnover teacher's dinner.  Both I think will be money well spent as they are based on key interests of mine.  

Well, it's only January so I'm still feeling pretty optimistic about this whole Fiber Budget idea.  I'll check back in with you on this subject in the coming months to let you know how it's going.  Do you have a fiber budget?  What helps keep you on track?  I'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Yarn Along - Hats for Women's March

You've probably heard about the Women's March on Washington, but have you heard of the Pussyhat Project?  It's a lamentable name I think, but the idea is to give the marchers a striking presence that cannot be ignored so they can better be heard.  Being a knitter I thought this was a great way for me to contribute.  My friend is flying to Washington DC to be part of the March so I am sending a hat along with her as well as another two for friends participating right here in Minnesota for our own Women's March.  You can find the very simple pattern and more about the project right here.   I used Blue Moon Fiber Arts Mopsy aran weight yarn in the Orchid Queen colorway.  It's a wonderful yarn to knit with very round and squishy and blooms beautifully when blocked.  I made a few changes to the pattern which can be found in my Ravelry project page.

Photobombed by my son when taking a project photo.

So, that's what has occupied my knitting time.  As for reading I currently don't have a book of my own, but I will share with you the book I am reading to my son.  It's called The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill who is a Minnesota author (I have just a wee bit of state pride I guess.)  It is a very lovely almost poetic story of a girl who becomes in-magicked by the moon when she is rescued as a baby by a kind witch.  There is a loving swamp monster, a tiny but enormous dragon, an evil witch as well a a kind one, and a sad village.  There is triumph as well as loss, but the balance is so well done that you never despair.  I first heard of it from Laura of The Knit Girllls podcast.  She is a Middle School Librarian as well as an avid knitter.  Their show is mainly about knitting, but they have a segment where they discuss what they're reading and often Laura is reading kid/teen books for her job which she reviews.  

I'm joining in with Ginny for Yarn Along.  Wishing you a wonderful rest of your week!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Frogging, Finishing and Starting Fresh

These are my favorite knitting project bags.  
Star Trek and Hobbit are by Stitched by JessaLu and the British Telephone Box is by Zigzag Stitches.

I started in December re-accessing my knitting WIP's as there were many which left me feeling weighed down.  They took up room, filled every project bag I own, and inhibited my starting anything new.  I had heard a quote that went something along these lines "If I can stand to stop knitting on a project, it is probably not something I really truly want."  Sadly, I don't remember where I heard it or the exact wording, but the sentiment is right.  It got me thinking about how we sometimes really do need to let go to make space for something even better.  I, like many of you I'm sure, get wrapped up in the amount of time I've already given that item and feel it's all for naught if I don't finish it.  Well, if you look at it from a different perspective, that item, while not completed, has already brought me excitement in the planning process and casting on, comfort in the actual knitting and possibly it has even given me practice at some new skills.  So, it wasn't a wasted effort, but maybe more of a pastime until the right project comes my way.  You know the type of project I'm talking of, the one you can't put down, that seems to knit itself, or that is just what you needed to complete your wardrobe.

Thus a frogging I went through all my project bags.  A couple of scarves here, a beautiful yet too small mitten there, a brioche poncho, a gorgeous sleeveless top and others met there end to my ripping back the yarn.  But isn't that the lovely thing about knitting though?  That you can reuse the yarn (well unless it's mohair then you might just be stuck throwing it out.)  I do think it's the reason I've stopped stressing as much over my knitting.  When yarn is recoverable to make anew with, unless it's the aforementioned mohair, the "risk" of wasting money is slight and that eases my mind.  The only thing truly gone is your time and as I mentioned previously that's really all in how you look at it. 

Now, looking at the projects I am carrying over into this new year I find they are ones I really do want.  The double knit mittens to match the hat I already finished and wear all the time, 2 sweaters that will add to my wardrobe, a stole which is such a perfect match for it's yarn, a pair of vanilla socks as I always take some with me as my on the go project, a late Christmas gift scarf (it's a bit of a boring knit, but the recipient can sure use it) and lastly a cowl out of the remainder of my handspun yarn.  So yes, there are still quite a number of projects crossing over into the new year.  I am not a monogamous knitter by any means, yet I do hope to get back down to only 3 projects at a time:  socks, sweater, and a neck or home accessory.  Thus, I am hoping to restrain myself from casting on anything new until a few more WIP's have become FO's. 

So, while I have no fresh cast on with which to begin the new year I feel as if I am starting fresh with my freshly sorted WIP's and future plans.  Now, on to re-accessing the yarn stash which is due for a good tossing.  How do you start the new year with regards to knitting?

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Yarn Along - First Finished Object of the Year

Well, I did get what I wanted for Christmas, but not what I wanted for New Year's.  Instead of starting out the New Year with the intentions I wrote about in my last post, I started the year with a stomach virus and all the ickiness that goes along with that sort of sickness.  I'm simply going to call this a false start and begin again this coming weekend when hopefully we are all back to our normal selves, because, of course, it hit all three of us.  Only our poor black lab Easy escaped unscathed, unwalked sadly, but at least healthy with lots of family snuggle time.

I did manage to finish a knitting project as I was only half a dozen rows from completion.  Doing a couple rows a day in-between bouts of discomfort and 3 days later my first finished object of the year is done.  It's yet another, albeit now the last, set of 4 Cozy Coasters by Joelle Hoverson from her book More Last Minute Knitted Gifts.  I used Frog Tree Sport Melange Alpaca yarn held double and US 9/5.5mm needles to make a 4 inch/10 cm square, which I found to be a better size for our mugs than the much smaller size the pattern as written creates.  They will be the first addition to the knitted Christmas Gifts box for 2017 making them the absolute earliest knitted Christmas gift I ever completed which tickles me to no end.  The fact that I finally used up the yarn I purchased nearly four year's ago is just icing on the cake as the saying goes.

As for reading, this being Yarn Along and all, I just finished Sheepish:  Two Women, Fifty Sheep and Enough Wool to Save the Planet  by Catherine Friend.  I borrowed it from the Library on a whim and was I delighted with a wonderful story!  It's about a woman whose partner rather drags her into becoming a sheep farmer, the trials of being a writer and full time farmer and her finally understanding "Fiber Freaks" as she calls them in the beginning of the book.  It was a nice mix of reality (the romance of having my own sheep is now utterly gone), humor (animals are funny after all) and journey of discovery.  The fun fact that their farm is only a few hours from where I live was such an added treat to discover while reading, that we may actually go visit if they still do tours.  

Hopefully your beginning to 2017 went the way of your heart's desire and you are all healthy and well.  Are you finishing old projects or starting the year afresh?  I 'd love to hear all about it!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Intentions for 2017

It's Friday night and I am home writing as I sit in my favorite chair, "Mama's chair" as it's called 'round our house.  Everyone respects this, well, everyone except for the dog that is, but she readily moves when I want my spot back so I forgive her transgression.  This is where I do most of my creative work, that being mainly knitting with a little writing thrown in too.  Blogging though has been far from my thoughts for some time now.  I tried a quick stint at video podcasting this past summer to perk my creative juices, and while fun it was quite a lot more work than I can regularly fit into my days.  It was an attempt to give myself some joy and something to look forward too.  You see, like many others I had a pretty stressful, awful 2016 where I just didn't have the wherewithal to share my joy of knitting with all that was going on in our lives and world.  Now that the new year is just around the bend I find myself wanting to put my intentions for 2017 into the world.  Figuring, probably naively, that if I set my intentions for the new year in print, give it my focus, they might actually come to fruition.  So hear goes.

I intend to make more family together time.  We have a very small house so we are usually all together within sight and talking range, but most often we are parallel playing as in we are each doing our own thing.  I'm wanting to add simple activities like read aloud story time, a movie night, a game night, family walk and park times where all three of us, four is you count our dog Easy, are focusing on the same thing.  Where I put down my knitting and my son and husband walk away for their individual games or books and we enjoy each other.  

I intend to be successful in my endeavors.  By this I mean slowing down enough to create items of quality in my knitting, house upkeep and homeschooling.  I often find myself rushing to finish, usually short-cutting some element or someone along the way.  2016 was a year of frogging most of my knitting, partially finished home projects and a lot of homeschool angst between me and my son.  So, I will slow down this year, take each thing as it comes and try my best.

I intend to take care of myself mind and body.  I do well about caring for my mental health and have a good support network set up.  But my body I abuse.  I simply don't move enough as my favorite activities of reading and knitting are sedentary.  This Christmas my back had had enough and my muscles seized up on one side landing me in bed on ice for much of the Holiday.   It was a bit of a wake up call.  I won't make any lofty goals, but will simply break up my day with stretches and try to get myself out walking more.

I intend to keep up with my friendships.  In general I have a tendency towards holing up at home as often going out seems too difficult.  This is an aspect of my depression where I need to push myself to go see people.  I will then have a lovely time with them, but the getting there can be hard.  So, my friends, bless them, might not see me for long spurts of time.  This year I will make a better effort of seeing them all regularly and not let excuses get in the way.

Really the underlying theme in all of these intentions is slowing down.  Which part of me finds funny as we're not exactly living in the fast lane, and yet we haven't learned to make time for stillness.  That resting and reflecting are just as important as action.  I use the word intention as I find setting a definite goal is an easy road to failure for me which leads to depression, which leads to everything going off the rails.  My husband taught me years ago that instead of saying "Today I will paint the bathroom." say "Today I will work on painting the bathroom."  Small difference, but in the first if I don't finish painting I have failed.  Whereas in the second if I do any little thing towards the painting of the bathroom I am a success.  So, I encourage you, if you're so inclined, to make "intentions" for the new year instead of "resolutions" or "goals".  Then, now this is the important part, pat yourself on the back every time you make some effort towards those intentions.  After all, we all need to be kinder and gentler with ourselves. 
Happy New Year everyone!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Simply Playing Podcast Episode 2 - Where Sheep Take Over My Life


Hi this is Ann.  Welcome to episode 2 on my new knitting podcast called Simply Playing.  I'm so glad you could make it!

Playing with Sicks and String (or current knitting projects)

Pattern:  Cozy Coasters by Joelle Hoverson from the book More Last Minute Knitted Gifts
Yarn:  Frog Tree Melange 100% Alpaca Sport Weight Yarn (held double)  (This yarn is discontinued)
Needles:  Knitter's Pride Metal US 9/5.5mm DPNs

Pattern:  Viajante by Martina Behm available as a Ravelry download
Yarn:  Madelinetosh Twist Light 75 % Superwash Merino 25% Nylon 4 ply Fingering Weight in Candlewick colorway
Needles:  Chiaogoo US 3/3.25mm and US 5/3.75mm fixed metal circulars

Show and Tell (or finished objects)

Pattern:  Felted Tote Bag by Yvonne Eyer (not on Ravelry but received as a class handout)
Yarn:  Cascade 220 100% Wool Worsted Weight (held double) in the colorways: Navy, Straw,  Lemon, and Natural
Used:  1 skein each of the Straw, Lemon and Natural and a skein plus some of Navy for a total of 1009 yards/922 meters
Needles:  Clover Bamboo US 11/8mm and US 13/9mm straight and fixed circular needles

Pattern:  Sheep! by Susan B. Anderson available as a Ravelry download
Yarn:  Shetland Oatmeal handspun, Cloudborn Fibers Highland DK in Charcoal and Oatmeal Heather and Madelinetosh Tosh DK in Candlewick
Used:  Fair Isle Sheep 75 yards/68 meters, Textured Sheep 66 yards/60 meters and Loopy Sheep 91 yards/83 meters for a total of 232 yards/212 meters
Needles:  Knitter's Pride Wood US 4/3.5mm DPNs

Forgotten Toys (or languishing works in progress)

Pattern:  Fair Isle Vest by Mary Jane Mucklestone purchased as part of a Craftsy Class
Yarn:  Cloudborn Fibers Highland DK in 9 colorways
  • Espresso Heather (dark brown)
  • Maize Heather (yellow)
  • Oatmeal Heather (natural)
  • Burgundy (red)
  • Navy
  • Sky Blue (very light blue)
  • Dolphin Blue (light blue)
  • Stormy Skies (medium blue)
  • Autumn Heather (orange)     
Needles:  Knitters Pride Wooden US 3/3.25mm and US 5/3.75mm interchangeable circulars
Project Bag:  Stitched by Jessalu Large Wedge in Star Trek 2 Generations Fabric

The Toy Box (or a visit into the stash)

Yarn:  Rimrock 70% CVM Wool 30% Kid Mohair 3 ply Fingering Weight sold through Etsy
Company:  Roubaix Wool Company
Location:  Winterwind Farm in Battle Creek, Minnesota United States

I also mention her amazing Goat Milk Soap

Ooo Shiny!!! (or yarn and pattern distractions)

Yarn:  Ovilab Yarns - handpainted and handspun yarn sold through Etsy's new pattern by platform

Pattern:  Shrug and More by Martina Behm sold as a Ravelry download
Yarn I'd Use:  Quince and Company's Chickadee 100% Wool Sport Weight

In Closing

You can find me on Ravelry and Instagram as SimplyPlaying or
email me at annATsimplyplayingDOTnet

Thanks so much for taking time out of your day to spend with me.  I'll see you again in a couple of weeks.  Until then remember to keep playing!  Bye! Bye!