Loose Ends

Loose Ends

the creative impulse gone awry

Tuesday, August 5, 2014


Let me tell you, quitting knitting cold turkey was a challenge.  Yes, occupying myself by spinning was fun, but there is something about knitting that I just NEED to keep sane.  Because of the concussion I had to put it down for a while and just stare wistfully at all of the things I wanted to do, but could not.  (newsflash, it wasn't only knitting.  I also really want to build a compost enclosure and a table, but I'm not even close to getting to use power tools again) I'm happy to report that after a few dabbles here and there (that did, in fact, hurt my head) I'm beginning to knit again.

After the accident, I knit a hat at urgent care for Clara in this lovely shade of green.  It was a simple little thing.  I made up the pattern as I went along and, feeling confident, I started a dress for Zoë.  I had knit it before, and figured it would be no big deal.  The truth is that reading the pattern and translating it into what my hands needed to do was nearly impossible. 

I struggled through the back, and finished, and after my initial appointment with my doctor where he instructed me "not to think too hard, if the knitting is too hard, you must stop" I realized that I had been pushing myself too hard. 

Did I stop?  pffft, no, of course not.  But when I started making ridiculous mistakes (mistakes I haven't made in years - like reversing the wrong side and right side and not noticing for several inches...) I had to admit it was above me and put it down.

Honestly, one of the hardest things about the past few weeks is missing my friend knitting. I was thinking about all that back to school knitting that I should be getting on top of.  Like sweaters for the girls, and mittens, and all of the things that I DO, my friends, these are the things I DO FOR MY KIDS, and I couldn't.  ugh.  I may be a neurotic mess most of the time, I may not know what we are making for dinner tonight, and there may be no clean pants, but no one goes to school without a new sweater.  No one meets that first cold morning of the fall without a pair of mittens. 

I was a bit beside myself.  Also, I have this friend who is having a baby.  I mean, seriously, not knit anything for a new baby?  Who am I?  That shit is just unheard of.  So it was entirely non-negotiable, new baby = warm woolens.  It just does.  So (in order to preserve some semblance of surprise here) I picked *cough* something, that was largely a trapezoid with a very very simple pattern -- something I would recommend as a first project for a new knitter.  I mean, a girl's gotta start somewhere. 

I will not say that the beginning was a cake walk.  I struggled, and I tired easily, but I paced myself.  I have a bit of time here, so there was no need to rush.  But it did start to become easier.  This weekend, I attempted to knit on Zoë's dress again, and it wasn't so painful.  I managed to finish and she adores it:

The lace pattern is a bit hard to see from that distance - and with the crazy purple/pink yarn she picked out.  So here's a close-up:

I know the pictures are terrible, but I don't have enough brain to get a proper photo-shoot and she really won't take it off (even though it is in the 80s and the dress is wool.  she just rocks it with less under it.  that girl...) which means I also haven't blocked it yet, but it's all good.

So the baby thing is now cooking right a long and I think most of my knitting fog may be past me.  I'm still spinning because a) it's awesome and b) my physical therapist just gave me 3 giant bags of gorgeous roving... and I have plans.  Speaking of plans -- I have some things picked out for the girls for back-to-school and I'm so excited that it's possible I will finish in time.  *and* I'll be using things from my stash, which is even better.  I hope I'm not rushing myself too much to recover, but feeling that yarn pass through my fingers and watching my little garments grow is so fantastic -- after a little time away knitting does really feel like magic.

I'm going to do my best to continue to take time to take breaks.  I've been reading more than I have in years, and it's good for me -- not just good for the concussion.  So my pace of knitting may suffer, but I'm thinking that I will not!  If there is one thing I can take away from this experience is that slowing down is not a bad thing -- feeling like I can't do things sucks, but choosing to not do them is just fine by me.

Friday, August 1, 2014

We have winners! (and it all starts again!)

Here at Bella Yarns KAL Headquarters, AKA my kitchen, we have winners for our first ever KAL!  woo hoo!

Check out our ever-so-scientific process for determining the winners:

First make tiny pieces of paper and write on each one the name of a raveler who completed the KAL

 Next fold them up and put them in an adequately sized vessel:

Next, made a pretend beard out of the remaining piece of paper (Optional):

Make sure all children are appropriately dressed and instruct one child to hold the vessel, while the other child chooses the first prize:
Woo hoo!  First prize goes to:

Next switch who's holding the bowl (fairness!) and pick second prize:

Yay!  Thanks for participating in the KAL, have you cast on for the Crazy Easy KAL?  Tell us all about it here!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Crazy Easy Tutorial

So, let's talk about that last row in the Crazy Easy Cowl, because, well, it tends to trip people up.  I wrote it as clearly as I could, but you know, sometimes things are just said a bit easier with photos.

The idea behind the "drop and cast-off" is that when you are sewing the ends together, if you use mattress stitch (as I do) it is exceedingly helpful if you have the same number of stitches on both sides.  When you are doing all of this stitch dropping, you are losing stitches to sew to the cast on edge of your cowl - ugh.  If we drop the stitch and then pick a bit of it up and cast that off, there ends up being a stitch that you can use when you are sewing.

My hope was to make the sewing more straightforward and I ended up making the last row a pain in the butt.  At least, it seems like a big confusing pain in the butt until you see photo-proof of how not painful it is. 

So let's start when you need to do your first "drop and cast off"  You should have one stitch on your right hand needle (from the casting off you have done previously) and you'll have many stitches on your left hand needle.

 Now you're going to push that first stitch on your left hand needle off of the needle and unless your yarn is super slippery it's just going to sit there and wait for you to do something:

Hello, little stitch!  Now you pull apart your needles and tease apart the knitted fabric until you drop that stitch down a few rows -- don't go crazy and drop the stitches down all the way to the beginning (as tempting as that is) you'll want the fabric to be intact for sewing it together and THEN you can drop the stitches.  So just a couple of rows, like this:

Now your target is that top strand of yarn -- you're going to slip your left hand needle right under that strand of yarn:
Front to back is easiest, so go for it!  Next you're going to knit that little strand of yarn.  Knit it?  Yup, you just stick your right hand needle into that enormous hole, wrap your yarn around it and pull it through -- like knitting a huge yarn over.... which is kind of what that is.

Now, you'll have two stitches on your right hand needle - pull the farthest over the closest and you'll have completed one "drop and cast off".

Keep going, repeating these steps each time the pattern tells you to "drop and cast off" a stitch and that's it!

So, have you found a great yarn in your stash to use for the KAL?  This is such a simple and fast little cowl and looks great in almost any yarn -- they would make great holiday gifts! 

Just a few more days until we cast on!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

update and new KAL!

Hi there!

I'm doing a lot-ish better with this whole concussion nonsense.  Unfortunately, for me, goal oriented chick that I am, I'm deeply annoyed that recovery isn't a straight line for this type of thing.  I'm used to straightforward injuries, generally ones that I am responsible for, where you feel better and better and done... Rather than this two steps forward one step back kind of thing. 

So, pacing myself meant giving up the knitting for a little while... I know, I know.  It was pretty much torture.  I spun quite a bit, and gave that yarn to Naomi and she lurves it and that's so awesome.  And I started spinning a kind of striping yarn with a bunch of small pieces of natural fibers I have laying about.  And then we had our Meet the Dyer with June Pryce Fiber Arts and I just couldn't resist this one called "Happy Accident"  I mean, seriously, and it's gorgeous.  So I've switched gears (not literally, cause I'm still spinning at the same ratio -- ha ha spinning humor) and I'm working on that now.  I'm hoping that I'll be able to manage a two-ply sport weight.  That is my goal.  If I end up being able to spin *nothing but* two-ply sport weight yarn I'll consider myself a total success.

That is how I'm staying (relatively) sane.  I started knitting again a little two nights ago and it is working okay and not making me (mentally) exhausted.  I'm working on a dress for the Zone, and it's coming out well (after I had to rip out most of the front of it because I switched right and wrong sides... grrr.)

But I'm staying busy with the making yarn and the garden and generally doing "summer" with the girls.

KAL!  Next up is the Crazy Easy KAL, in which we all knit our most favorite simple project: The Crazy Easy Cowl. 
 For those of you who don't know, it's entirely one piece of stockinette until the last row where you intentionally drop a bunch of stitches, which turns it from boring into magic.  Okay, maybe it's not actually magical, but it's still pretty good bang for your buck. 

I've whipped up a new one in this delightful yarn Seda Rustica  One skein makes a generously long Crazy Easy Cowl.  I can even wear it doubled:

It's 80 and humid in my office, so yes, you only get one picture.  Also, I'm super tan from going to the pool with the girls yesterday (and all of the "not knitting" I've been doing outside -- mostly watching my pumpkins grow.)

Now, I am still learning about this whole KAL thing, and last time I was setting it up furtively while my kids were having a playdate and I made the Spring Sproing KAL WAY TOO LONG.  I now understand that part of the challenge is to finish the project within the given amount of time.  Two months to knit a hat, that is a bit much.  So we're going to shrink this one down to THREE WEEKS.  That's right, 3 weeks to knit a piece of stockinette, drop some stitches, sew the ends together, unravel all of the dropped stitches, and post pictures to the internet. 

I know, that may still be too long, but hey, it's summer, and we all have lots going on.  Forgive me.  I have to spend a good portion of that time watching my pumpkins grow.  Luckily the Crazy Easy Cowl is, in fact, easy enough to knit with a concussion.  So I'll be joining you and knitting it out of something squishy and wooly -- maybe some handspun.  I'll decide in a day or two.  We'll be starting the first day of August, and going until midnight of the 21st - so you have three weeks and the cowl will be finished for that first school run (holy crap, where did summer go?).


1st is a $25 gift certificate to Bella Yarns (online or In Real Life)
2nd is a kit to knit the Crazy Easy Cowl in Seda Rustica (the yarn featured in the tutorial) in a color of your choosing! (shipped free to you wherever you are, or to pick up in the shop if you prefer...)

So.  In a couple of days I'll post the tutorial for the last row that seems to trip everyone up.  It's not really difficult, I swear, it just needs pictures me thinks.  In the meanwhile, check out your stashes and look for something that will be happy and/or drapey at 3 stitches to the inch (honestly, doesn't matter that much) at least 160 yards.  The Seda Rustica is 218 yards and it is generously long.

Then we can all get crackin' on the 1st!

Monday, July 14, 2014

a little better -- and some crafty backlog

I woke up feeling much less foggy today.  I think a) buying the car b) laughing so hard and long that my face hurt at the pool with the kids and c)borrowing a great book (and starting to read it) have made my head feel a little better.

also, the cicadas are back in my yard which always makes me feel like I'm in a Japanese movie.  Which may not sound romantic to you, but for me, and my sweetie, there's a thing about Japan, and Yakuza movies, and well, classic movies in general.  You don't really need to understand, except to know that it's really awesome and evocative for us to have cicadas in our yard every summer.

Further, my corn is getting taller, I have baby pumpkins, and my tomatoes are finally starting to pink up. 

I haven't really been well enough to work that much since the accident... that post I wrote on Friday?  yeah, I basically had to sleep for 3 hours afterwards.  Which means 2 hours of work = 3 hours of sleep.... that is not a good ratio.  especially when my typical ratio is 13 hours of work + 4 hours of chillaxing = 7 hours of sleep.  I like my typical ratio, I can't wait until I can get back to that.  This whole trying not to "think too hard" part of healing from the concussion is not my favorite.

The one thing that doesn't seem to tax my brain too much is hanging out in the garden.  Which is great -- all the work of the spring has been done (ie. the thinking) and now it's all about weeding and watering and harvesting... which is totally mindless and rewarding.  I also was told by our preschool teacher that our lilac hedge in the front (that we planted a month or two ago) really needs water.  So, we've been spending at least an hour every evening watering our various things.  (it's been really dry here...)

I do honestly think the accident is (in part) the universe trying to school me in slowing down -- because I'm usually at warp speed all the time.  I know that finding some kind of cosmic balance in anything is strange for your resident atheist... and trust me part of why I'm so damn ANGRY about the accident is that this is time that I will never be able to get back.  I have no afterlife to look forward to THIS IS IT.  The whole concept of asking for a monetary settlement for this kind of thing is hard for me because there is nothing more precious than time.  Money helps make the time I have less stressful, and for that it seems an okay trade -- up to a point.  But I will never have this summer where my girls are 4 and 6 ever again.  I will never have these moments and I want to be here and clear, not a ball of anxiety and stress and worry hidden behind the fog of a bruise on my brain.

sigh.  We also bought (or agreed to buy, I should say, because we don't actually have it yet) a car.  I have been trying not to misdirect my anger at the accident -- let's be angry at the situation, and frankly, angry at the person who's negligence caused it... let's not be angry at the car, the car dealers, all other drivers, and the kids. 

As soon as I admitted my issues and stress about buying the car to Josh I felt like I could get a handle on them and we found THE car.  It's lovely, and it makes me smile, and it will be the best in RED (but I have back-up choices if they can't find it in RED)  Luckily, Josh did the negotiating and was able to take my vague comments about how all of the cars felt, and the things I liked and didn't like and translated that into a set of features that I "needed" and that we could "afford"  (we had the squished car paid off and are not exactly thrilled or quite prepared for having a car payment again... another big annoying repercussion of the accident)  Anyway, I'm excited about the car, and not driving the humongous rental mini-van anymore.  It is a bit bigger than the car that was squished and I'm particularly looking forward to driving it to maine to visit the grandparents.  it's going to be so nice to have all that space!

One thing that I have thought several times would be awesome for my brain that I haven't quite gotten to do yet (or I should say since the accident because I was on quite a roll for a while) is spin.  I had taken to spinning in my witching hour.  The space between dinner and bedtime makes me kind of twitchy as a parent.  I've lost my earth-goddess-mother-patience and I'm ready for the kids to just be asleep already.  I know this, and knowing helps me combat my short temper a lot of the time, but add a little spinning meditation and I can handle it all a lot better. 

People like to say that knitting is akin to meditation, there are studies, and the whatnot.  But spinning, man, spinning is even more so.  The sound of the wheel -- sometimes the girls just get mesmerized, and once Clara asked if I could spin while she tried to sleep because the sound was so calming.  The constant motion of your feet on the treadles, the motion of your hands, the slow filling of the bobbin.  It's so lovely.  I had been, as I said, in quite the groove, spinning for about an hour each evening and I was really starting to spin up a lot of my fiber...

I started with a 4oz bundle I had purchased in Kentucky when I went down for my grandpa's funeral.  It's Nube from Malabrigo in the color Pocion.  It took me a little over a week of evenings to spin the whole thing onto two bobbins and then to ply it to be a bouncy, lovely little two-ply.  The result was a light worsted, about 160 yards.

I was looking around for a pattern to knit it -- I thought based on the way I spun the fiber that it may be a bit on the stripey side, and it's pretty purple... so I wanted something fun that didn't take a lot of yarn, and I also wanted something that if I ran out it wouldn't all be for naught.  enter Candy: Stripes and Sprinkles  I thought the buttons would be fun, and if I ran out I could always use leftovers of Rios for the button bands, or the brim (the hat is knit top-down)  Not only was the hat super fast to knit, and fun, and yes, the buttons are awesome.  But if you are doing a single color you have plenty at 160 yards, in fact I have enough leftovers that I may do a little cowl or something to match - maybe my worker bee mitts...

It's a funny trick of the light that the yarn looks gray -- in real life, it is really a dark purple with blue and citron highlights.  the buttons are a yellow-ish green and semi-transparent which I love.

I was experimenting with the whole "take a selfie with your good camera in a mirror" concept.  But I don't quite have a large enough mirror to pull it off.  So it looks like moving the furniture and sweeping the dust bunny colonies out from that corner in my dining room will continue to be my photo-shoot space.  No short cuts!  But you know, I do love the results of the hat and you can get an idea of how adorable the pattern is from these photos -- such as they are.

And tonight I'm really going to try to spin some more.  I'm working on an enormous amount of merino/silk hand painted roving that Naomi gave me years ago.  I'm secretly (she doesn't read the blog anyway, so I can tell you) spinning it up to give it to her.  I've already got one skein finished (spun, plied, soaked, and dried) and I'm working on the spinning part of the second.  It's turning out really well and I know she'll hoard it for years and then make something gorgeous out of it.

What about you, have you tried spinning?  We have June Pryce Fiber Arts coming this Sunday for a Meet the Dyer, and she does a lot of fiber.  I'm really excited to pick more up for this spinning thing I've gotten myself into -- not that I NEED any MORE, but you know her colors are irresistible!  If you've been thinking of trying it out -- her fiber on a drop spindle would be a great place to start.  I'd be happy to show you at my open knit (which is free during the summer) your brain will thank you, trust me.

and now I need to go rest mine -- all these words are literally making my brain hurt.  That was only a figure of speech for me until recently.  Luckily packing online orders is also not terribly taxing to my brain!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Stuff and string

Oh, hello dear friends.  Sorry for my relative silence recently.  It's been a wacky couple of weeks here.  First the end of the school year happened, with all of its bittersweet moments, and then summer vacation starts and the girls and I had to relearn how to be together all day, nearly every day, without emotionally damaging eachother.... that was a process.  And our adorable Bob got a bit of a stomach bug that gave us quite a scare (and a hefty vet bill, sigh...) Then, joyfully, we went to Maine to see the grandparents, and bask in the glow of early summer there -- which is lovely, I highly recommend going *before* 4th of July, it's so nice.

Sadly, on the way back from Maine we were in a pretty substantial car accident.  We are all mostly fine.  The girls, thankfully, are totally fine -- just a few rough nights of nightmares and poor sleep, and some anxiety about riding in the car.  Josh is pretty badly bruised and sore, and was hit in the head by something (it all happens so fast!) I got a concussion (just from the headrest slamming into the back of my head, whoa) and I've been feeling pretty dazed and sore since.  I am recovering.... slowly.  Apparently, these things take time and I'm one of the least patient people I know.  I had SUCH GREAT PLANS for this summer.  This week the girls were in summer camp.  A whole week to myself to work, clean, photograph yarns, and otherwise kick ass, and I have been a shadow of my former self.  It is supremely frustrating for a person who is as non-stop as me to slow down to the level required for me to heal.  Especially since I haven't ever had this much time to work since Clara was born, I was so hopeful, and I had so many lists, that it hurts that I can only cross a couple of items off.  pffft.  accidents are frustrating, and concussions are hard.

So, I'm looking back at my week of "work" while the girls were in summer camp and I'm realizing I did, MAYBE, 2 days of work.  sigh.  I have all of the yarns photographed (all of the yarns we have, that don't have adequate photos online) and so now I can slowly start to create those items on the website.  At least that was pretty mindless, and we had great light all week long, so it was a good task for me to complete in my brain fog.  I did a bit of accounting, so I could stay on top of the bills, so that is always good.  But, I'm just now getting clear enough to start telling you about all of the things I was up to before someone hulk-smashed our car.

The prettiest thing is that I finally got the next installment of our "local color" category up... another gorgeous yarn from our friend Kate at A Hundred Ravens.  In fact I mentioned it as a possibility for my next Engineered Seams last time.... Tyche.  I do love A Hundred Ravens.  In fact, in my sadness and pain (and anger, and frustration) about the car accident, Kate handed me a ball of Danu in a color called Grass (there was only one, sorry folks) and Naomi handed me a pair of 16" #7 circs and they patted me (gently) on the head and said, "Get thee to your doctor, NOW!" (honestly, my excuse for not going was that I forgot my knitting and what would I do in the waiting room?) and I have been knitting on the Danu pretty much non-stop since then.  First a hat for Clara, and then a dress for Zoë... but that is for next time.  Seriously, stay on target Kim.

Right.  So Tyche is Danu's skinny sibling, a fingering weight yarn much like Tosh's Merino Light but just slightly heavier.  Oh, do I love being a fiber artist RIGHT NOW, when there are so many delicious options with so many delicious patterns.  Seriously.  There is a wealth of great yarns right now.  Erin, dear friend and part-time yarn shop helper knit a gorgeous cowl out of one skein of Tyche-- the Vancouver Rain Cowl.  Erin used the color Kyoto, which is a stunning pink/grey/white multi that you think would be BONKERS bright but is actually so gentle and subtle and gorgeous in this pattern.

I had a skein of Friesen which is a teal-y-green/silver-y-grey multi and I had started working up the Lacey Baktus but frogged it when I screwed it up the 5th or possibly 6th time.  Honestly, the pattern isn't complicated, but it's deceptively NOT simple.  So I thought I could just hum along, la la la, and then I would look down and realize I had screwed it up.  ugh.  So, when I saw the Vancouver Rain Cowl I realized I needed to just make that.

And so I did:

Now this was a pattern you could just hum along to.  After the set-up round it is pretty mindless and you just keep going until a) you run out of yarn or b) you get the right number of rows -- which you can count by counting your yarn overs.  It basically knit itself.  It's long enough that you wear it doubled around your neck, but light enough that you could keep it handy for over-air-conditioned places, or for cool summer nights/mornings dropping the kids off at summer camp.

I love how nicely the two-toned colorway knit up, it was vaguely stripey, and not at all pooly, which is, frankly, how I like my multis.  joy.  I have many recently completed things in the pipeline to show you.  A tutorial for our next KAL, the hat that I made for Clara, Zoë's dress, I've been spinning... seriously.  And personally, we've been doing quite a bit of gardening, and having way too much fun at Coggeshall Farm -- Clara fell in love with a baby cow there and the pictures are beyond cute.  Also, I had actually started working on the kitchen again, and it's nearly there!  It's going to take me a while to get all these sentences formed an typed, so I may be posting more slowly until I'm feeling a little bit better, but we'll get there!  The universe is going to teach me patience, one way or another it seems.

I hope you have a lovely weekend.  We're going to hit up the local farmer's market and see if the 4H table is there -- Clara and farm animals are best friends, so we need to get her hooked up with that, at least until I convince Josh we need chickens.  That's going to be a tough sell... and it may be a while before I'm up to the task of building a coop!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Engineered Seams

Let me start off by saying that I adore this sweater.  I really do.  flaws and all, I have worn it a lot, even though I finished it right before it started to get warm.  I have worn it for days on end, and the yarn is actually machine washable (crazy, I know, but it is - I don't put it in the dryer, though, because that was a lot of stitches.....)

I will make it again, and I will make changes, but oh, how I love it.  First, just look at it:

Doesn't it have that, slouchy, sexy, edgy thing going on?  Oh, but it's not so easy to look this good.  Usually, when I'm not paying attention (most of the time) the bottom short row section goes all rogue on me and ends up looking like a strange appendage/fanny pack/flap of something:

which means I spend a lot of time doing this:

This annoys me, but I love the sweater and the neckline is DAMN sexy and I loves it so I will put up with it.  I think the floppiness of the bottom of the sweater is due to two factors.  1 - the yarn I was using was a little thinner than the intended yarn - the designer used two strands of a laceweight yarn and I think my kinda skinny fingering weight (Quaere Silk Singles) may have been a bit too fine.  2 - The designer used all wool, which as we know, has less drape, more spring, and Silk Singles is, aptly named, 30% silk.  This means it's undeniably gorgeous (as is the color, oh my god, my colorway is Slate which captures perfectly the gray/not gray complexity of slate.  while the sweater is definitely "gray" it is also purple, blue, and olive green.  sigh.  i just love it) but it's also more drapey and this does no favors to the bottom slouchy section.

Also, given that I have had two adorable children, I may be a bit sensitive about my torso and it's general squishiness, so some of that extra fabric just bugs me.  So next time I make it (and there will be a next time because, dear lord that neckline...) I'm going to leave out the short rows on the bottom.  Or possibly do fewer repeats of the short row section... it's an easy hack of the pattern and it will use less yarn and bug me less.

I'll still wear it, and love it, and fix it incessantly to make it look slouchy -- not floppy.  I'm still trying to figure out what to make this out of for next time - possibly Tyche, Danu's more slender sibling.  I think the all-wool-ness and its slightly heavier gauge will make this work much better. Or I could go all drape and make another freaking dress.... oh, oh, i'm insane, but that would be awesome.... possibly with short sleeves?

Seriously, I have to stop going down the rabbit hole with the knitting these days.  Fall yarn previews (the yarn we have sent early so I can knit samples) are coming in and I need to make the samples.  I'm working on SO MANY THINGS that I can't go stash diving and knitting a dress on fingering weight yarn.  as tempting as that is.....