Friday, December 21, 2018

My So-Called Handmade Life Ravelry Group- Blogmas Day 21

You know how "I'm just here for the knitting." has basically become a meme? Well, I'm not just here for the knitting, though I'm quite obsessed with it. I'm also here for the talk and inspiration.

Together, you and I, have decided a Ravelry group would really compliment that. So... ta da!!!

(join the group on Ravelry)

I stayed up til 1 am, sitting askew at the desk due to Christmas box stacks, learning how to add text in photoshop for a Ravelry badge and banner. Geez Louise, the crick in my neck is a testament to my love for you guys. No, I won't be opening my web design business anytime soon😐

So, guys! We finally have a place to do knit-alongs and share inspirations and obsessions. I'll do my best to be present there, as making connections online is the whole point of the group. But I'm also about to make some big, blog tech changes, which usually involves weeks of staring at the computer screen with tears in my eyes. Please be patient with me. Why, Blogger!?! Why!?! 

It's a big step to make a Ravelry group. I realize most of the people I know in real life don't even know what a Ravelry is, but you guys do. It's my favorite thing about the internet. Period. So I'll do my best to keep up with things and respond. Other than all that blog code business, I should have plenty of time, but lots of podcast viewers have assured me you're also very capable of talking amongst yourselves. So things should be fine.

Introduce yourselves in the My So-Called Handmade Life Group to each other and/or start posting prospective projects for the #WingItKAL (more details on that coming, but lots of info is here.)

My Only Christmas Knitting- Blogmas Day 20

My Christmas gift to myself this year was to not knit any gifts. I will probably make a few once the holiday is over, but no stressing and knitting all-nighters for me this year.



I did see a testing call from Shannon Cook for her new cardigan pattern, and had no choice. I keep imaging myself wearing it over an old fashioned shift as I step out of the cabin to check on the horses.

(more on Ravelry, Instagram, and Flickr)

So I'm well past the swatching phase on this, but still no where near acquiring that cabin or those horses. Maybe for Christmas....

I'm using Patons Classic in Natural Mix. I can't believe I got gauge on all the stitch patterns with just on needle. Even more amazing, is the fact that I'm several inches in and still on gauge. Miracles do happen, just not the cabin and horse variety.

Have you seen the images Shannon has teased on her instagram? Sigh. It's as nice to work up as it is to look at.

Blog Rage- Blogmas Day 19

It's a thing. And I'm feeling it. If you've been frustrated recently because my blog won't let you comment, you aren't alone. Myself and everyone else, other than the chosen few who seem to get through, feel the same way. Sorry about that.


2018 has been the year of tech frustration. With every new thing I tried, there was a cascade of cause and effect that led to many hours of me on the phone with Apple Support or GoDaddy, or just staring at the computer screen in a stupor.

I'm looking into switching blog platforms soon, so be patient. You can always comment on Instagram, Ravelry, or Youtube if you'd like. If you're feeling extra generous, pray that I don't lose family photos, comments, or blog copy when I make the switch.

If you've made the switch from one blog platform to another, please give me any tips or advice. That is, if you are allowed to leave a comment. Good grief.

By the way, have you ever heard of Springer Rage? It's weird.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Roid Week part 2- Blogmas Day 18

I was one of those kids that loved looking through family photo albums and still do. The film record of someone else's memory became the basis of my own. I even made my friends look through them with me. This is probably why I gravitate toward vintage cameras.



Several years ago I started collecting Polaroids and other vintage cameras at thrift stores or online. They were still really cheap then. I spent hours on Flickr forums learning where to find a certain old type battery or how to use available film for a camera whose film type isn't made anymore.



I started bringing my twin lens reflex cameras and contraption on hiking trips. My husband sometimes wore a backpack dedicated to vintage cameras so I could grab them easily. I had each child hike while holding photos from my 210 land camera as they dried. Amazingly, they don't hold this against me.


I went to great lengths for what you might find mediocre images. But they are magical to me. Even mundane bits of daily life seem special when preserved by these. These particular bits of life, with the exception of the last image, were plucked up by my Polaroid Sx-70.



I have a nice DSLR but nothing it produces moves me as much, unless it's the digital record of the image I get through argus 75 lenses, via a homemade cardboard contraption. Even a small, slightly out of focus, polaroid photo with roller marks seems more real than anything stored on my computer. It is in my hand, though.

(more on Flickr and Instagram)

Roid Week 2018, part 1 - Blogmas Day 17

Back in September, I had an avoidance day.  You know, the type where you don't want to face people or responsibilities. One where you don't think about your troubles and instead hyper-focus on some trivial or materialistic thing. Healthy, no?


So my focus became maintenance and film gathering for my vintage cameras. I pulled out my old cameras for cleaning and ordering new parts, etc. (I talk about them and show some images on Podcast episode 18. You can find lots of them in various Flickr albums, too.) Among all the little bits and bobs I ordered was film for some Polaroid 600s and my SX-70. I had never actually used the 600s before so I was excited to hear that The Impossible Project, now Polaroid Originals, was putting out a more consistent, if pricey, film.

When Roid Week came, in October, I tried using my new (to me) 600s. All of these were taken with them. Eh, not so great. The blur is totally my fault for moving or being too close to the subject. But I gotta keep it real and showing you the worst ones I took for Roid Week 2018.


It was a consistent film. The inconsistency was with me. I'm used to the SX-70 and how close I can get to a subject. But really, I'm not even used to that because its been a few years since I held a polaroid. There was no way I could take a selfie for a photo challenge (Strange Brew Creative Photo Challenge) without blur. That's okay I didn't particularly want a selfie anyway.


And I guess I forgot dogs are the worst subjects in the world. My dogs that lie around 22 out of 24 hours a day, suddenly have to run and dance and feel alive like the Solid Gold dancers when the camera is on them.


(more on my Flickr, and Instagram)

I'm looking a little underwhelmed with the polaroid 600 here, but flops I still like these images. They make me think of my first attempts at photos with my Kodak Disc camera. Remember those? 

The Wing It KAL- Blogmas Day 16

I'm hosting another knit-along in the new year. One that encourages us to use our skills with a little less guidance from patterns. Remember how I said, in my last post, that I was starting to feel the itch to design garments for myself? Since I only uploaded it moments ago, you may not. (Look this Blogmas thing is killing me. I was out of commission for a week, now I'm scrambling to catch up while dealing with a screwy platform.) Fie on you, Blogger!!!

Anyway, knitting has gone from a hobby I only get to work on in furtive moments between practices and homework to something I can really indulge in for long stretches of time. In the years since my children were small, I have made all sorts of knits: fitted, super cabled, extreme allover colorwork, the super bulky craze, cardigans, fuzzy novelty scarves, zippered fronts, summer tees, turtlenecks, socks!, lace, etc and have learned so much.

The mess of reference books I am constantly flipping through attests to these lessons. So why am I not using my abilities more creatively?


It seems a shame to have maybe 16 years of experience doing all of this, plus a couple of reads through Knitting Without Tears, and not be creating my own sweaters and such. I know I can do it because I have already done it once. My Bus Stop Pullover was my first attempt with only Elizabeth Zimmerman's percentage recipe to guide me. (Don't mock my Ghibli-inspired pullover. It's sweet and nostalgic and it used stash.) I loved doing it and it prepared me for an apocalypse where there was no clothing, but plenty of sticks and yarn.


It turned out really easy. In fact, if I weren't trying to fit something as odd as totoros onto the yoke, it would've been a snap. But I haven't tried anything like that since, and I've knitted a lot. I counted 103 sweaters of all sorts on my Ravelry page. Keep in mind, I'm not especially talented, just consistent. And obsessive.



So again I ask myself- why have I not used my abilities more in a way that challenges my mind? I love knitting other people's patterns. It's like having a conversation and seeing things through their eyes for a moment. It's also a relief, at times, to start something and know it will be finished quickly with little to no trial and error. On top of that, I succumb to instagram bandwagons like everyone else. That aforementioned Ravelry page contains at least one fade, indie-dyed colorwork sweaters, an Icelandic yoke, and several hats with giant, faux fur poms on top. I am a only human. 

Let's face it. The last 3, no 5, years were intense for me. I needed something easy that soothed me. I needed one thing that I could do and know I did well, every day. If it felt like the whole world was mad at me, I wanted to escape in something that had a tangible result. So many of those projects provided that release and rhythmic lull I needed. My knitting was mocked a bit because it was in my hands every chance I got, but it helped me relax and that was worth the remarks and rolled eyes.

Lately, though, I've been wanting to try some of the things I read about: different construction, unusual shapes. I don't mind if I knit for days and it flops big time. I think it will help my hormone induced forgetfulness to go through the trial and error of different processes myself to get the methods ingrained in my mind. We all know that trying new things creates neural pathways. I'm actually not sure about that, but it sounds correct.

(more on Ravelry, Instagram, flickr, and starting with Episodes 21 & 22)

Besides all of that, I like to collect images of tv-inspired knits that I'd like to recreate. Like I said, sometimes it just boils down to, "Ooooh, pretty."

Would you like to join me in the #WingItKAL ? You only have to innovate as much as you want to. It could be a different cast on than the pattern describes, or a lengthening of the sleeves. Or, like me, you can cast on with a ball of yarn and just start something all your own from start to finish. Trying a new stitch by knitting a square that you use as a dishcloth totally counts!

I will have a Ravelry group up by the end of this week. It would've happened sooner but Blogger is driving me insane!! so It's not quite ready.

Be thinking of what you'd like to change in an existing pattern or invent for yourself and we will cast on in January! Hope to see you there.

Finally, My Plum- Blogmas Day 15

I showed off all of the finished Junko Okamoto patterns on my podcast early in the year, but I wasn't finished at the time, and have only now taken time to edit photos of it. Guys! I hate photoshop and Blogger! Excuse my frustrated exclamations and instead feast your eyes on my version of Junko's Plum pattern.



This was a big deal for me. Firstly, I never thought I'd be organized enough to host a knit-along. Thank you if you were kind enough to join in and encourage me. Also, knitting one of Junko's patterns opened my mind a bit to different sweater shapes and what really goes into design. I mean, her stuff is mostly one size patterns, right? That's interesting. I love designers that include enough sizes to cover any and every knitter, but Junko's knits seem to work well on lots different shaped bodies too. There's always the option to use a heavier weight yarn, too. Her style also gave me the itch to get creative in my thinking about garment design for my self. I haven't exercised that impulse yet, but it's definitely there and you'll hear about it before Blogmas is over. I have to fill these daily posts with something, you know.


Moeke's Elena yarn was such a pleasure to work with. I felt like I was "really knitting" with "real wool." You know what I mean? The whole lovely story of how they started their family business is on their site and worth the read.


So here's what I love about this design: All he different types of stitch patterns. There is colorwork, lace, and cables to break up large sections of stockinette. What more can a knitter who gets easily bored want?


How about that unusual neckline that's worked not only with increases and decreases but also needle size changes. totally different than any other pattern I've ever worked.

Plus it's reversible! As in the v-neck can be in front or in back. Personally, I like it in back, though mine needs to be steam blocked to get that puffiness out of it.


Lastly, it's super, duper oversized. Remember that goal I had for 2018. It so happened with this one.



Details: I used US size 0s, 1s, and 2s to knit this project. Seriously. I used at least 5 skeins of  Moeke Yarn's Elena. I can't remember if I used more or not, since I added some length to the sweater. Sorry.

 The pattern looks long and complicated at first, but everything is broken down into sections and each one is very easy to read and knit. I had no problems with that. I do think I found errata in the pattern. It's been a while, so if I'm wrong just ignore me and make note that I'm a liar, but I think the set up round for section 5 needs a m1r and m1l on each side of the shoulder to get the correct stitch count.


My one modification was to I added one repeat to the body portion to give about an extra inch of length. It still has the cropped look, though. Another member of the KAL did the same thing and was pleased with the results.

Note: When I bound off the hem looked kind of loose and wavy. I scoured Ravelry, and found no one else saying they had this problem. I even asked several knitters, but all had used different yarns. It's a little different than the usual ribbed bind off, so I finally just decided to block it, knowing I could always rip back and do a regular ribbing if I had to. Blocking did the trick, though.


I really enjoyed seeing all of the different knits viewers and blog readers finished for the Junko June and July KAL. So, if you joined in, thank you, thank you for encouraging me!! And this won't be my last Junko knit. Her Meg is absolutely on my "list." Ah, the ginormous, but beloved list. And I'm sure you've seen Michel, right? The Twigs is also on mine and everyone else's radar.


(more on Ravelry, Instagram, Flickr, and Podcast episodes 11-17)

Have you done it yet? Have you knit a Junko pattern? If you're not into oversized tops, there are shawls and hats. I've heard nothing but good things about her designs, so let me know if you try one.

Floozy Progress - Blogmas Day 14

I'm still working away at my beautiful Floozy cardigan, by Libby Jonson. It has been interrupted by a couple of test knits- you know how I am about those. But it is to the point of being a great tv/ conversation knit.


First let me say that the names of each colorwork section on this pattern crack me up: Honey Baby and Butterfly Kisses, lol. I love the idea of a colorwork yoke that doesn't require stranded knitting. And if you've seen any of the FOs, you know it's gorgeous!


My only issue is that my hands and wrists rebel a little when knitting luxury yarn like this. It is a soft, beautiful merino/silk/cashnere blend from YarnFloozy. I have had a knee jerk reaction to a yarn kit listing before. Actually, I think it was the first kit I have ever bought. But I was powerless when I saw the tonal colors and how well they worked together.


Catrien combined a golden, mustardy yellow (Foliage) that I don't have much of in my wardrobe,  with an unexpected light pink (Chewy Caramel) and berry red (Wildberry). I would never think of those three colors together but I love it. You have to check out her instagram.

For a long time, when it came to color combinations, I'd choose a light and dark version of one color, then throw a grey into the palette, Poof!, color decisions solved. That does work, but I have been veering away from neutrals over the years, as Indie dyers became more of a thing. My Sunset Highway is proof of that. Nothing pleases me more than to go from a really good, vibrant color in a knit to a basic neutral again, on the next project.

Anyway, my point is that I fell in love with these colors and the sheen and softness of this yarn, however, my hands seem to struggle with the slipperiness of the fiber. I am a seriously relaxed knitter, so it's taking a little more effort to make these stitches because they want to slide off the needle prematurely, making a long, wonky shape. It's not the end of the world, just something I've never worked with before. I just imagine the fineness of this yarn in my completed cardigan and it keeps me going.

In the meantime, I'm varying the kinds of projects I work on. I knit a bit on Floozy, then go to a very rough worsted to give my hands a break, and since I separated the sleeves from the body, the rows have been moving faster. This was the project I brought on our little family getaway to knit by the fire.

If you're considering casting this on, I strongly encourage you to take a look at the Floozy KAL thread in Libby's Ravelry group. It's a friendly, and VERY informative place. Lots of us are gaining confidence in our knitting over there.


(more on Ravelry, Instagram, Flickr, and Episodes 16- 22 so far)

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Peppermint Mocha Socks- Blogmas Day 13

These were my Iceland project. I basically knit one sock on the plane while catching up with Katie, and when not reading Kabul Beauty School. It's Dani Jorge's Twas the Night Before Christmas socks pattern, only I left off the little trees.





Dani's heel in this pattern is the best looking heel flap I've ever knit. I knit it before as my Christmas Eve Cast On and I don't think I've ever produced such a nice heel before. So, it's my new standard for traditional sock heels.

The colorway, Peppermint Mocha, is from Sweet Sparrow Yarns. Isn't it the best? I guess you call this a micro-stripe? I don't know, I love it. Julie has so many colorways I want to knit up. Have you seen her Rose Cardigan kits? If I were to ever buy hand dyed yarn for this cardigan, hers is the kit I'd buy.


The fact that these socks took me six months is surprising. It's just a basic sock. I actually finished them knitting in the hospital late September because it kept me from going insane as I waited and worried.

Anyway, Katie says that since we've both finished our Iceland socks, it means it's time to go back. Sounds good to me.

Details: I knit these with US size 0 needles and Sweet Sparrow Yarns Magpie yarn in the Peppermint Mocha colorway. I followed Dani Jorge's pattern completely except I omitted the tree stitch pattern and just left the little rib stripe running down the sock until I began the toe.

I haven't knit any more of Dani's patterns, though they all look lovely. I am interested to see if she has other ways of working the heel and comparing them to this one.

I guess releasing a pattern to be a potential Christmas Eve Cast On will be a tradition for Dani. She has recently come out with Twinkling Trees. And I'm thinking I'd like to light my balsam candle that's beside my fake, twinkling tree and start them on Christmas Eve.


(more on Ravelry, Instagram, and Flickr)

I talk about these off and on for months thru 2018 on my podcast, if you're dedicated enough to watch.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Enchanted Rock, from a Distance- Blogmas Day 10-12

I'm combining some days because this little family trip took three days. The point was to hike Enchanted Rock all day one Saturday. This is the Texas Hill country, which is as close as I can get to mountains without driving through to west Texas. Driving to For reference, it would be like driving across Iceland three times. Iceland is now my reference for everything. Most of my state is flat. And my particularly area, by the Gulf, is a bit dismal, visually. So, we head for trees and hills as often as we can. Even desert is better than refineries and shopping malls. I'll get on with this before I break out into a verse of "Big Yellow Taxi."





























Family hikes are my secret to meaningful conversations with my kids. On this walk, I noticed my daughter and I seemed to move ahead of everyone else and I got a lot of quality time with her.


As we talked I was overcome with deja vu because we tended to end up grouped together on most of our family hikes. She says she has the personality type that likes to get things over with, even fun things- she speeds on to the finish (very much like my grandfather).


I never thought of it before, but I may be a little that way, too. I don't want it to ever end, but I do feel anticipation about what's coming next around the next bend in the path, so I walk or run exuberantly. This, of course, is relative. I might look like a slug on the trail compared to you.


We talked about books we read the previous year- the Sagas of Icelanders (me) and Educated (her) and how we are both in love with The Expanse book series and never want it to end.
I heard details about her job and felt so proud of the way she is going beyond her official position to help the students she advises.  She heard about what it's like for me to work with 3 and 4 year olds again in BSF.


As we talked, I felt some of the knot in my stomach untying. It's a knot I didn't even realize was there until I felt it loosen. I guess it's just holdover from all the yuck stuff that's happened in our family since my father died. It was good to see my daughter and son-in-law, to know they were okay after what had happened. It was good to have uninterupted time with my son and just be with all the family members I have left.


The guys tended to walk at the same pace, and occasionally stray to scramble on rocks. It was very cold for us, near freezing, so we kept moving.  I haven't really laughed in a while.



And my son tried to eat a pricey pear. Why?



We recreated some photo moments from our youth:



By the end of the night, as we huddled on couches to watch Over the Garden Wall, the knot fell away.


I know some parents who don't pine for time with their kids when they live far away. I can't understand that. Even in hard times, I want to see them with my own eyes, to truly know how they are doing by the sound of their voices and the look in their eyes. It's the matured version of a new mom creeping in the baby's room to make sure it's still breathing.

I accept that they're growing and won't live in my house. The room o yarn attests to my adaptability. But I would always prefer to be with them than not. I wonder what you think about this, as you're either a parent, a child, or both.








All of this was for my husband's birthday, which usually gets absorbed into Christmas celebrations. The kids hiked longer than they would normally just for him. He also got to pick out the Airbnb and pick all the restaurants- The Auslander for German food,


Hondos for the Tex Mex, and 78624 for the atmosphere. (I may have clips from some of these places in my next podcast episode.)


The Fredericksburg downtown does Christmas in a big way. Even the kids, who are perpetually underdressed for the cold, wanted to frolic there. I felt it was important to document the caution barricade you see in the foreground. Sigh.


Check out the livestock at the house where we stayed. They were my props for Phoenix photos.




Yeah, that's pretty much all I had to say. Isn't this guy the cutest?