Friday, February 9, 2018

Plane Knitting

What an easy, relaxed knit!  I pull The Weekender, by Andrea Mowry, out when I want the ease of stockinette so I can just relax and chat or watch tv.  I think it'll be a good knit for my flights, too.  As I write this I'm reminding myself to go ahead and ball up the yarn so the people sitting next to me won't hate my guts.  But I have a feeling I will run out of time.  I'm scheduling a couple of blog posts like it's my job.  Meanwhile I need to water plants, write notes for my husband to remember stuff, and (most importantly) decide what projects I'll be bringing.

I've heard if your projects have already begun, airlines are more likely to let you bring them in in your carry-on.  I know things have relaxed in the last 5-7 years, since I last flew, but I'm still traumatized by that time Lima Airport's customs confiscated my Denise Needles.  I was too shocked to even ask if I could unscrew the cord and at least keep it.  I don't even use Denise needles anymore, but the pain is still fresh.

So, I'm taking Clover bamboo needles and packing a couple things in my carry-on and a couple in my checked bag.

This trip isn't the kinds where I'll be lounging about, knitting.  But I can't stand the thought of flying with nothing to busy my hands, unless my book gets really good.

This is a link to the Cocama Project website that shows the process we will be using to dig a well for a village in Peru.  Hopefully I'll have some good photos for you when I get back.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Test Knit, I Know I Know

I realize I said in my first podcast episode that I wouldn't be doing any deadline knitting projects, no gifts or test knits.  Famous last words.  When Alina of Gift of Knitting sent me these photos of a super cabled, bulky sweater, I could not resist.  Could you?

These cables are so addictive.  I hate that I keep getting distracted from them by silly things like people needing food and love from me.  Now, I'm leaving them behind for a trip because I don't think large projects will fit in my bag.  I''m going to the Amazon and this is my only real packing worry- what knits can I bring.

Well, I'll look forward to finishing it when I get home.  It looks fitted in images, but it should block out to have a nice 5-6 inches of positive ease.

(more on ravelry, kollabora, instagram, my podcast, and flickr)

This will be my first sweater to start this year.  I like that it's designed by a friend and the epitome of my favorite knitting scenario: bulky, major cables, and budget Cascade Eco that I happened to have run my stash when Alina messaged me about the test.  I don't think I could've done it otherwise.

It's called The Edge, so you can look for testers photos via instagram with #the_edge_sweater.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

With Ease

With Ease is my first project from Sylvia McFadden's Gentle Armour.  This shawl was exactly what I thought it would be.  It was interesting, but not so hard I couldn't indulge in conversation.  It also had me thinking about my life as I worked on it.  That's an unusual reaction to a knitting pattern, but this is from an unusual pattern book.  If you've seen the first two episodes of my podcast or my Vlogmas, you know I'm obsessed with Sylvia's book and all the designs in it.

Details: I used size US 6 needles and Brooklyn Tweed's Shelter (yeeee! first time and I love it.) in Faded Quilt to make this.  The only modification I made was to knit another pattern repeat as it looked kind of small.  Now, she instructs to block it aggressively, which I tried to do, but I had the yarn so I decided to add the repeat as a precaution.  One knitter on instagram told me she added three repeats to get a generously sized With Ease.  I decided to just add one, but was appreciative of her mentioning it to me because it gave me confidence to add on.

Now I need to say, one more time, how great Gentle Armour is.  The whole inspiration of the collection sounds, to me, like taking care of yourself- making healthy choices, creating good, gentle boundaries.

So, as I worked on this shawl, I considered what things I have learned to do with ease.  One of the biggies is saying no, and learning to live with displeasing people.  I don't think that happens too often, but it still can.  I used to want to make people happy.  I felt like if I was physically capable of doing something they wanted, I should.  As if my seeing the need was the equivalent of a calling to fill it.  It was like I was made to make other people happy.  When you're mostly around people who are decent and kind, that seems to work out great.  But, it can't always be a nice, safe, little bubble of like-minded sweethearts, you know?  What if they aren't satisfied?  What if they see me as a different sort of person than I believe I am?  The anxiety this used to give me was all internal.  No one would've known it was there.  (Hopefully, my children didn't pick up on it and carry a similar tendency because of it.)  However, it definitely impeded my happiness.  I couldn't totally relax if someone hated me.  How could I be happy if they thought I was... (insert a negative adjective).

That's when I really struggled with how difficult it seemed to get along with certain people.  I was okay with giving things like control of the conversation, access to my strength, more respect than received, etc.  But I was started to feel emotionally depleted, physically worn, and angry about it.  On top of that, it never really soothed anyone.  Eventually, boundaries had to be drawn.  It took me a while just to identify how unhealthy my attitude toward making others happy was.  I was created to make God happy, and last I checked, He didn't require the weird things that were being asked of me.  That's when my frustration that they wouldn't just be satisfied was exposed for what it was- too much focus on myself to avoid conflict.  It was actually prideful to think I could take care of things in such a way as to resolve conflict.  I mean, a true absence of conflict wouldn't leave me seething, would it?  So, I started stepping back and trying to look at scenarios through a balanced perspective- whatever that was.  Slowly, I started to see where I should and shouldn't act.  This was all accompanied by lots of prayer. It felt wrong at first, like trying to get de-programmmed from a cult.  It felt so awkward to know someone was annoyed with me and to do nothing about it.  I imagine people coming out of codependency feel much the same way.  After a few months, the change in my sense of calm and my clear headedness were undeniable.   I have tried to make sure I stay balanced and still be willing to "give in" when it's good to do so.  Maintaining this healthy boundary, one that is healthy for everyone involved, has gotten much easier since then.

The only thing I can add to all of this deep, pondering, is:  Look at this pretty yarn!!!!! You know a yarn is special when an 18 year old boy says flowery words like, "Yeah, that is neat." instead of the usually grunts from where his head is buried in his elevensies snack plate.

I love the little flecks of bright blue in it.  Isn't Faded Quilt just the perfect name for this shade of blue?  And for a shawl that wraps around me like gentle armour?!  It makes me think of a much loved, family heirloom that's been washed a lot, but still had some of it's old luster shining through.  Like a quilt my great-grandmother might have made, if anyone ever actually took it off the rack and used it.

I want to be Brooklyn Tweed's biggest fan, but I can't justify more until I knit through all of my stash of good, but budget, yarn.  I do have another few skeins for Quill's Arrow, though.  I think an entire sweater in Shelter or Loft would be so luxurious- in the way rustic, woolen-spurn wool can be a luxury.

(more on ravelry, instagram, flickr, and kollabora)

Friday, February 2, 2018

Episode 3: First Knits

Guys!  I have loved talking to you with my mouth, not just my fingers.  If you think of a reply to any of the questions I pose or have any thoughts that this episode brought to mind, please share here, or on youtube.  It makes it so much more fun.   Also link photos from your ravelry page, blog, instagram, etc. of your fledgling knits!  You know you wanna!

This is where I record the eleventy billionth knitting podcast.
On my blog:
On instagram as mysocalledhandmadelife:
On Ravelry as mamatronic:

Episode 3 Questions for you:

What was your shameless first sweater or hand knit?
What website, book, community inspired you in the beginning?
Beginner's recommendations for a new knitter, if different?
What've you been watching or reading lately?
Anyone been to Iceland or  know of any must-see destonations?

Stuff I mention or show:

Debbie Stoller's books that got me started knitting:

Stitch N Bitch Handbook:
- Big Sack Sweater- Jenna Wilson:
- Go-Go Garter Stitch Scarf- Debbie Stoller:
- Chinese Charm Bag- Sylvia Mahoney:
- Meema's Felted Tote- Meema Spadola:
- Hot Head Hat- Alex Zorn:

Stitch N Bitch Nation:
- Newsboy Cap- Shannita Williams:
- Fairly Easy Fair Isle- Kate Watson:
- Lucky: Clover Lace Wrap- Melissa Wehrle:

Stitch N Bitch Superstar:
- Saxon the City Stockings- Julia Frank:

The Happy Hooker:
- Granny's No Square bag- Diana Rupp:

Stefanie Japel's Fitted Knits:
- Airy Wrap-Around Lace Sweater:
Alexandra Ballerina Top:
- Cropped Cardigan w/ Leaf Ties:
- Cozy V-Neck Pullover w/ Deep Ribbing:
- Back to School U-Neck Vest:
- (my version):

Her Glam Knits:
- Textrurized Tweed Coat:
- Deep U-Neck Tunic Dress:
- Zigzag Lace Wrap:

Knitting Without Tears- Elizabeth Zimmerman (The Best):

52 Weeks of Dishcloths- Knit Picks:

Kid's Chainmail Coif and Hauberk- Kim Brody Salazar:

Dwarven Battle Bonnet- Sally Pointer:

A Maker's Pilgrimage with The Knitting Monk:

The Thistle Hollow Podcast:

Those Holla Knits Daze:
- Umbre Lovre- Allyson Dykhuizen:
- Lady Bat- Teresa Gregorio:
- Henri- Ann Leachman:
- Bombshell Shorts- Katie Canavan:
- Cedar Glen Mitts- Katie Canavan:
- Scallop of the Sea clutch- Katie Canavan:

My WIPs:
With Ease- Sylvia McFadden:
The Edge- Gift of Knitting Designs:
The Weekender- Andrea Mowry:

And if you made it this far, you are unique, and so will appreciate the strangeness of these recommendations:

- Fullmetal Brotherhood:
- Oathbringer- Brandon Sanderson:

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Twas the Night Before Christmas

What am I going to say about the Twas the Night Before Christmas socks that you haven't already read or heard a thousand times?  It's everything you've heard- cute, interesting to even the most bored sock knitter, and able to entice non-sock knitters to try it.  It works with tonal or variegated colorways, and even stripes.  Yeah, all of that.

They were my Christmas Eve Cast On, but I was too busy to cast on the night of the 24th.  So, on Christmas Day, after our company left, I sat down to knit the first sock.  Wow, I just had a weird deja vu moment as I write this.  I vividly recall the feeling I had when I sat down to cast on and it was not at all the feeling I intended this post to invoke.

Okay, if I'm honest, it was a little blue.  I mean our Christmas celebration had been nice and I was so excited to see my daughter and son-in-law.  We had a lot of fun with them and at my father's house, but there was a spot in my living room where my grandmother should have been sitting, trying to pet my dogs with the back of her hand so she could be loving but still not get dog germs.  I'm not feeling sad or on the verge of tears or anything, as I write this.  It's just a fact that Christmas, after a loved one dies, isn't easy.  I didn't go on a crying jag or anything. I felt kind of numb and weird.  It was that unsettling feeling like I'd get on the first day of school, as a girl, only worse.  Everything was going to be different now. Every milestone, every event would feel different.

So, I sat there on the couch, after everyone had left and it was quiet and cast on Dani's pattern.  It wasn't a magical balm that made everything easy.  But it was rhythmic and familiar.  Dani is my friend, wether she knows it or not.  I keep up with her, her mom, her dog, and now her cat on her podcast.  It feels homey and comfortable, like knitting with a friend.  She dotes on those pets like my sister and I dote on ours, so I feel a kinship.

I concentrated on learning the cast on, a type I've only done once before, but love the look of.  Then, I focused on the subtle coloring of the Agave colorway as it slowly became the leg of a sock.  My mind began to clear and I was aware of every part of the making process.  Maybe it's in my head, but that yarn knit up to make a better fabric than I normally get with fingering weight yarn on a size 0 needle.

The repetition of knit one, purl one was soothing and it made the night easier.  I'm thankful for that.  So my memory of my first Christmas [Day] Cast On wasn't the kind anyone would necessarily ask for, but as far as strange times of change go, it wasn't that bad.  By the way, Dani's pattern is fantastic.

So let me tell you what I love about this pattern.  I've never knit gussets the way she directs us to, but it is absolutely the neatest job I have ever done on a heel flap-type sock.  I want to use this pattern as a template for all of my heel flap and gusset socks in the future.  I can always omit the trees and purl/knit/purl line that runs down the length of it.  Though, that last detail would work great with any vanilla sock.

Details: I used Peepaloo Fields' Sensible Sock in the Agave colorway and size 0 circular needles to cast on for a size small.  The colorway was a subtle one that I thought would go well with this lace pattern.

Sensible Sock is an 80% wool/ 20% nylon blend.  It felt more substantial than the average sock yarn.  I think it must be a tad more plump.  I tend to love sport weight for socks, and an 80/20 is a good fingering weight substitute.  I have now worn them several times and can attest that the fit is great in the heel and the yarn wears well.

When I think of this yarn dyer, I tend to think of delicate speckles, but she really has a wide variety.  Her dark totals are equally beautiful.  I will, personally, keep how much I loved using that base in my mind for next time I am wanting some sock yarn.  To be honest, though I'd love to buy more immediately, that doesn't need to be soon.  I have plenty of sock yarn to knit for the next year.  I am trying to organize my home and collecting more craft stuff only thwarts that goal.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Christmas on My Feet

I have a few Christmas yarns in my stash, but all of them were debatably Christmasy.  You know, they were great colorways- some with vintage pastel speckles, one with movie -inspired stripes, but they'd never make someone say, "Aw, you're wearing Christmas on your feet!"  And don't we all long to hear that at some point in our lives?  Well, my day is coming.

This yarn from Turtle Purl Yarns is unmistakably Christmasy.  (Excuse me, you have to say that word, "Kwithmathy" with a lisp.  I'm not sure why, I just have to do it.)  When I wear these, next year, everyone will know I am big on Christmas.  

Details:  I knit these socks with size 0 needles and TurtlePurl Yarns in the Mistletoe Kisses colorway.    I wanted them for the minty, green stripe that interrupts the usually green and red palette.  I was pleased to see they came in two, identical mini skeins so that I could have a matchy-matchy Kwithmath!

I started out knitting the socks individually, then decided to start another sock and put them on a large needle for two-at-a-time Smooth Operator socks.  When I remembered I didn't have a contrasting yarn for heels,  I was like, "meh. Why botha?" and went with a traditional heel flap and gusset.  The fact that the heel flap on each one is solid green is accidental, but cool.  I did use the rounded toe from the Smooth Operator pattern, though.  I do find that I need good light and focus to do this without dropping stitches.  When I did a Box o Sox in 2016, I finished two or three different socks just to find I'd dropped a stitch during the rounded toe process.

I didn't block them for these photos, so my magic loop ladder is obvious, but I just wanted to hurry and wear them while I had the chance.

They are finished and beautiful and I'm staring at them now while wearing a cotton blend sock because, alas, it turned warm again.  That's okay, I didn't expect to have my glorious Christmas Sock Reveal until next December anyway.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Episode 2: Doing it with Ease

This episode was filmed before I'd seen any feedback on Episode 1.  So, I didn't get a chance to respond to any comments there.  But I'll get to it with number 3.

Test knitting, creating boundaries, an unexpected LYS, my first John Arbon, my fancy first design (not), the art of Leon Collins, and digging wells.  There.  Who needs show notes?

But if you do want links to most of the things I mention, they are both on Youtube and at the bottom of this post.

I appreciated the kind words and encouragement.  I live in a home with (sometimes) terse men.  It's nice to get feedback :) .

On my site:
On Instagram as @mysocalledhandmadelife:
On Ravelry as mamatronic:

My So-Called Handmade Life Podcast Episode 2:

Questions for you:  Is there any significance to your first project of the year?
What are you learning to do, with ease, for yourself  that was once difficult?
What are some new podcasts you are watching or listening to?
Have you seen Citizen Kane? Is it the monumental film everyone says?

Stuff I mention:

My StripeEd Cowl pattern:
and on my blog:

Calzetta hat by Justyna Lorkowska:


Leon Collins and Molly Bee artwork:

Maike Goods:

Selbu Mitts by Skeindeer Knits:

Mountain Meadow Wool:

Julekveld Mittens by Skeindeer Mitts:

Underwing Mitts by Erica Heusser:

John Arbon Exmoor:

Emily Foden's article about working at the John Arbon mill:

Cafe Au Lait by Klever Knits:

Appalachian Knits:

Silvermine by Christina Danaee:

Remington Steele (hehe):

The Weekender by Andrea Mowry:

The Edge test knit is by Gift of Knitting:

Sunset Highway Caitlin Hunter:

Mistletoe Kisses socks:

With Ease by Sylvia McFadden:

Gentle Armour:

How we will drill the water well:

Contagious Creativity Podcast:

Sophie Crespy's site: