Saturday, February 22, 2020


Warning: Gonna get pretty personal with this post. Of course, because it's about socks(?). I started writing it over a year ago to discuss this yarn, named after me, and thoughts about myself as I knit with it. However, I was working on it in the hospital at the end of my dad's life and I found it difficult at that time to untangle thoughts about myself with my feelings about his passing. I mean, life, death...socks? Didn't seem appropriate. For a year the post just sat in my drafts, until it almost seemed ridiculous to post it at all. And you may well find it overly spiritual or ridiculous. But a project named after me seemed to deserve a peek into my thoughts at that time in my life, however messy they may be. Besides, a blog isn't really a journal unless you let it be, right? Pattern notes are at the bottom if you want to skip the weighty, spiritual stuff.

Julianne of Lovebird Lane Yarns has a collection of yarns based on some of her favorite podcasters and, believe me, you cannot be more surprised than I was to see I was among them. I was delighted with the Michelle colorway and how well she "got me."

The lightweight part of feeling shy is the awkwardness. I love this colorway, yet feel so awkward that my name is on it. I love Julianne! And I love when someone really sees me, but I still have trouble with the actually being seen part. I feel such temptation to water my thoughts down here, to just talk about the pretty colors and not show any intensity of personality. I used to call it shyness but my kids' would probably call it social anxiety. That's a little formal for me. I'd prefer cat lady.

Why do I feel shy because someone is "claiming me" publicly?
This is after twenty- something (now forty-something) podcast episodes of myself talking online about knitting, death, cheesy shows, and dogs, all with a zit somewhere on my face.

There's always a zit on podcast day.

I think it's because I don't feel worth claiming. I haven't felt worth claiming most of my life. I always felt a little out of place in every social situation. That's the heavy part of being shy. I wasn't born that way. I was born outspoken, if cross. Somewhere along the way, in the dysfunction of family life after a parent dies, I internalized everything. Felt responsible for everything. And felt joy never.

My solution, when I was my kids' age was to think of what a normally adjusted person would do in a situation, then force myself to do that, trusting that eventually the feelings of self-worth, or normality, would come. Usually these endeavors were to benefit someone else. If I was using valuable space in this world, I could at least be of service. I often wondered if I was doing it right, because I only felt something on the spectrum of shame: from mildly awkward to complete loser. I now am mid-forties. Though I care a whole lot less about how I am perceived, the discomfort can still be there. Still! I don't want to fake it 'til I make it anymore. How did this even happen to me?

My dad said he was so shy as a boy that when visitors came to their house, he would hide behind the couch...the whole time. I imagine trying to sit still, while cramping with the dust or dog hair behind our couch during one of my parents longest of visits with a neighbor. That's pretty intense. Of course, he grew out of that. By the time I was born, he led hundreds of workers in organized labor strikes. So I knew there was hope for me.

...Now I'm just thinking about Dad again. But he was a part of this strange time in my life. Being there for him, at the end of his, required being around another person who had hurt me when I was young. I was leaning over Dad's hospital bed, holding his hand and praying, without realizing my bent back may have looked like an old, familiar target to them. We are creatures of habit and where one perceives weakness, their habit may be to exploit it. I didn't fully understand what was happening around me until I went home one night to pray and gather my thoughts.

It's like I took some of the darkness that was in that room home with me. A cloud of shame I hadn't worn in many years, covered my shoulders again like it had always been a part of me.
As I lay down to sleep that night, I saw it. Really saw it. And all the emotions and beliefs that came with the shame imposed on me (pain, sorrow, unworthiness, guilt) hit me as forcefully as it did when I was a kid. I'm thinking- what is going on? Are my emotions just all over the place because my dad may die?  I hadn't felt this way in years. But as I lay in bed just feeling those exact same things I felt and thought as a teenager, I realized  this wasn't me. It wasn't a natural part of my coming of age back then. All those nights and days I sat in my room feeling paralyzed, afraid to come out and draw criticism, wasn't my overly emotional nature. The belief that I should never have been and every dark thought it produced was not just teen angst. It wasn't just because my mother had died. It was a particular influence, or presence, in my life that I believed was correct because I was a child and they were an adult.

I tend to think we make our own problems for ourselves, until it comes to someones problems around me, then I tend to wonder if I caused them. That sound you hear is me laughing at my double standard. But, in general, I am cautious about assigning blame for our shortcomings to some other entity. A lot of Christians do. Do you have any Christian friends like this? Do you see them as "eccentrics" who talk to nothing? Sometimes they entreat the good nothing and sometimes they cast out a bad nothing? Well, this was not nothing. It was real. The hair on the back of my neck was raised, which is saying a lot for someone as tired as I was. But being tired and grieving so much, I had nothing of myself to give to this nonsense. I saw it for what it was. Sure, it was the lies that smothered my joy from the time I was 14, delivered through one person's ugly looks and cruel slights. But it was beyond this one person's actions. It was the spiritual and universal shame I think so many people experience. It is a force in opposition to life. I sat up in bed and said, literally out loud, "You can't have me. I'm His. I will follow Him no matter how hard things get, even if it makes me miserable. You can't have me. Go away." With that, I put my head on my pillow and slept, hard. My husband, I imagine, laid there wide awake in bewilderment.

I can't believe I'm even trying to talk about this. But it was a big deal to clearly see how the  destructive lies entered my life and how powerfully I let them shape me. It was an even bigger deal to see that I no longer believed them. Not really. I still have hard days where I feel "shy" but those old thoughts rolling around in my head don't define me anymore. I have felt a tender, gentle love from God that has soothed those hurting places.

And let me say, time does help heal to an extent. Beyond spiritual changes in myself, just seeing the effects of time on the person I once viewed as an extension of God's harsh judgment (either a sign of His pleasure with their smile or a conduit of His rage with their own) put it into perspective. Abusers get old. I think it all began to lose its hold on me years ago, when I left home and fully committed myself to Christ's teaching. Still, it was important that I now see the proof of it.

One last ramble. It was humbling to see the strength I have received over the years. It was also sobering to fully consider the power my words could hold over someone else's head. We do tend to believe what we hear. Just as my replaying someone else's unnecessarily critical words over and over in my mind can destroy, so might my bitter response to those words. I suppose I can verbally shred someone with the best of them, but I don't want to add to the hate. I want to quick to listen and slow to speak, to think and pray. I want to recognize the hurting child inside of the people around me and soothe them. I want to encourage them to overcome their burdens, when I can, even if their burdens are the guilt of what they have done to another. I want everyone to know the gentle comfort I have found. I would like to mirror my creator that way, root for people lend strength to them. But that's all "want to's."

As far as who I actually am today, I am not completely sure. I'm no longer shaped by the lies I heard as a girl, though the experience still tempers my thoughts. I do know, really truly know, I am loved by a good Father. I belong with someone, someone I can identify myself with and who identifies with me. Out of this place of confidence,  I think I am equipped to live a loving life, if I choose to.

Details: Er, so let's talk socks. This was basically Susan B. Anderson's Smooth Operator pattern again. It feels like part of my brain now because I have worked it so many times, but no it is Susan's idea. This is my favorite afterthought heel directions, though I have some socks ready to try the Kirby Wirby method.

I used a size 0 circular and Lovebird Lane's Merino sock yarn in the Michelle colorway. It was such a pleasure to work with. Soft and easy on my hands. The heels and toes were just some off white scrap yarn that I thought went well with the stripes.  They have been much worn and loved this winter!

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

You can find more on this project here.
And on the podcast : yarn details in Episodes 19, 20, 22, and more of the personal reflections in Episode 23)

Thursday, February 20, 2020

The One Week Baby Blanket

A few weeks ago I found myself doing something I never thought I would do: waiting, literally waiting, at the door for the mailman to deliver a yarn purchase. It's one of those materialistic-seeming things, like setting an alarm and waking at an unholy hour to catch a shop update. I don't see myself as that person. But there I was, a day after my friend's baby was born early, opening a box of Brava yarn wondering how I could make her a handmade blanket before she received a million store-bought ones as gifts. See, not materialistic, just self-important.

My original, carefree plan was to get the yarn and begin a leisurely knitted chevron blanket that I would make up as a I went along. I'd work on it a little every day, so I could still knit Badger with the JKnitBealeKAL2020 and I might even make a swatch or two before beginning.

Whatever. I ripped that box open and threw myself into obsessing over one of my fasted projects ever: a worsted granny stripe blanket, like the one I made a few years ago as a gift. That one took 10 days, with no pressure. This one would have to grow faster because... obsessing...self-importance. Thus, I started chaining the same number as I had on that first blanket. I had to pull up tutorials on double and triple crochet as I reminder. I also pulled up my old blog post on that first blanket that mostly followed Attic24's pattern.

That, my friends, is what this blog is for. It's my virtual corner of the napkin list, only it can't get shredded at the bottom of my purse. I can google my blog name along with any term I wish to have more information about and Sage Michelle of Yesteryear immediately supplies a profound answer in blog post form. It's a slower, more convoluted sort of Magic 8 Ball.

One search example: myso-calledhandmadelife, beekeeping
results in how to spot a queen in a beehive, perform a side crow split in yoga, and how to clean an old Argus camera. I literally just tried that. The search, not the side crow split

Another search- myso-calledhandmadelife, garden
pulls up photos of flower petals and thoughts on the fragile nature of man and spiritual renewal. Deep, Sage Michelle, really deep.

Then there's- myso-calledhandmadelife, sewing (Something I really don't even know how to do and yet, I even have advice about it.)
It resulted in a mole my daughter fashioned for her physics class that carried chapstick, a tiny drawing of a liger, and wore a "Vote for Pedro" shirt- Mole-poleon Dynamite. Boom. I have just rendered all of those redundant sewing blogs unnecessary.

See why I dread moving my blog and losing these early gems, even though many of the links have gone bad? Mole-poleon Dynamite!!!

Baby Blanket...right. So this was just a repeat of the first one I did, except it was in machine washable yarn because this little baby lives in the swampy South and normal people don't use wool around here. I also worked on it constantly and finished it in a week.

I began with the Dove Heather color for a single crochet row then started my rows of triple crochet clusters. I did one in Dove Heather between two row stripes of each of the other colors. I also used this color as the border, so it required 3 balls. The others just took one ball each.

Details: This was knit in Knit Picks Brava worsted colors: Dove Heather, Silver, Seashell, and Coral. I used a size F and G hook. The larger one was for the first row where I chained out 114 stitches. As usual it took a few tries to get it right. That is the only tedious part of these crochet blankets for me. I used the same G hook for my bind off row, too.

For my border, it seemed to need clusters of four triple crochet stitches. I don't know why, but it just looked best to me. This border isn't on the Attic24 pattern but I remembered doing it on the other blanket and it working.

I like the feel of this acrylic yarn. It is smooth and soft, but I did find my hook would split the strands constantly. It required me having to look down at my work the whole time. That's hard on my neck and also my sensibilities because my husband was reading subtitles to me as we watched a movie. It's just not the same in his robo-voice. Eventually, I did get the hang of crocheting this yarn without looking. It just seemed to take slightly exaggerated movements. Usually crochet gives my wrists a break from the repetitive stress of knitting, but I feared my breakneck pace might create different injuries. Oh, well, it's done and displayed lovingly on baby's crib. Totally worth it.

If you've never crocheted before, I don't think you can beat one of these blankets as a first project. It's really forgiving and, if it's for you (especially if it's scrappy), mistakes commemorate your learning process. I probably wouldn't buy the whole "it gives it character" thing if it were a garment. But blankets are all chill to me, except when I'm crocheting at 1a.m. and creating new repetitive stress injuries.

(more on ravelry, instagram,  flickr, and podcast Episode 45)

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Episode 45: A Hat and a Blanket

This is where I record the eleventy billionth knitting podcast.

On my blog:
On instagram as @mysocalledhandmadelife
On ravelry as mamatronic:

My questions for you: 1) Like last week, I still want to know how you guys have, or would like to, "spend yourself on the hungry", "Help the poor wanderer", "or relieve the burdens of the oppressed?"
(taken from Isaiah 58)

and 2) Do you find yourself saving things, like special yarn or something you consider really nice, and not enjoying it because you see it as too nice for everyday or maybe you keep it from yourself until you seem "ready" for it? Or maybe I'm the only one.

3) What are some very accessible, very affordable projects you like?

Stuff I mention in Episode 45: 

My Baby Granny Stripe Blanket blog post:

And on my Ravelry:

in Knit Picks Brava Dove Heather, Silver, Coral, and Seashell:

the #scrappyblanketmakealong on instagram:

My Scrappy Granny Stripe in wool:

with Andrea Jimenez:

my Sunset Highway by Boyland knitworks:

Aquarian Baby Blanket by Lavanya Patricella:

Knit in Wool of the Andes Superwash in White, Dove Heather, Marble Heather, and Noble Heather:

Traveling Afghan hosted by Alexandra Tavel:

 and kits on Lion Brand site:

Mine is in Knit Picks Brava Worsted in Dove Heather, Silver, Cobblestone Heather, and Tidepool:

Campfire Blanket Scarf by Alexandra Tavel

in Lion Brand Fisherman's Wool:

My blog post on Voyager hat:

and on my Ravelry:

Voyager by Alexandra Tavel:

in LB Merino Camel:

My seed stitch Winston Pullover by Jane Richmond:

in Thick and Quick Sea Glass:

Jane's notes on how to make it seed stitch:

My Elora Slouchy Toque by Good Night Day in blog post back in the day:

Elora Slouchy Toque pattern on Ravelry:

A fun blog post on My Lambton Extra Chunky Cowl:

and the free Lambton Cowl pattern by Good Night Day:

Some more free patterns:

Abya Yala Sweater by Cecilia Losada:

Archange by Cordelia Vor:

Paloma by Space Tricot:

Fruity Knitting:

Nutiden Yarn in Sweet, Spicy, and Bitter:

And Caroline's Höner och Eir podcast:

maybe for another Ravello by Isabel Kraemer:

Friday, February 7, 2020

Voyager Cap

There are lots of firsts here. Voyager Cap is my first pattern to knit by Alexandra Tavel, or Two of Wands. It's like a classic beanie with a little extra something- like space between the top of my head and the top of the cap.

I've been a little fixated with Alexandra's patterns lately. I've seen them for a while and it's like once I knit one, I had to knit them all. Beanie as gateway pattern.

Another first for me is this Lion Brand's LB Merino Camel yarn. I've never used camel or an LB collection yarn. I felt all kinds of swank-ay as I made this. the camel seemed to make it a little slippery compared to regular wool, but it was no big deal.  I was about 2 inches in and realized my gauge was getting off and I'd need to go down a few needle sizes. It didn't take long to get back to the same point in the pattern.

My thoughts on this yarn: It's nice. It's softer than regular wool and especially softer than Wool-Ease, the Lion Brand yarn I am most familiar with. Lion Brand acrylics were once my only stash yarn.  AS I was exposed to online yarn sites and as the indie dyer market exploded, that changed. I veered away from it, craving all the color and real animal fiber. But something has happened in me lately and I find I'm intrigued by patterns that use Lion Brand and are completely stylish. I think how much I would've appreciated those designs when I was using Wool-Ease for sweaters and scarves. I've felt a desire to use the remnants I have in my stash and even to get some new balls of Thick and Quick for a few bulky sweater and accessory projects. I think it feeds my nostalgia for the old days of knitting, when I first learned and I was so proud to make something useful while also saving my family some money. It may also be a desire to support designers who often make patterns free and show them in affordable yarns for people who can't, or don't want to, drop a heavy dime on a sweater. It's not the same, since I still have a stash, but there's a comfort to using it.

A lot of Alexandra's patterns come in kits on the Lion Brand website and they often have 30-40% off sales on them. It's like Knit Picks' book sales, one or the other is always happening. 40% off makes this even more affordable for both yarn and ad-free pattern.

So this was my first time to use one of their kits. Apparently, I really enjoyed it because I ordered a few more, like Winds of the Atlantic, Crossbody Canteen Bag, Campfire Blanket Scarf and a couple of summer tops at 40%- 50% off. Winds of the Atlantic is an oversized crochet vest/ cardigan that I am inordinately excited about trying. It will be my first crochet garment...unless a Superman baby cape counts as a garment. In fact, I think it was all of the seemingly beginner-friendly crochet that initially drew me to the Two of Wands patterns. She's also really good at working instagram.

I'm also knitting a blanket put together by Alexandra and Lion Brand, in which she designed some of the squares in both crochet and knit. I know, another pattern of hers... and another blanket. I realize I sound like a member of a cult at this point.

Now, here's what I love about this hat- There's the affordable yarn that's also really soft, like I said.
There's also the clean lines and cute decreases up to a little point. I love that even with the extra length on top, there is still enough fabric to fold the brim and keep my ears warm. Were you to not want the pointy top, you can always just omit the rounds that would make the part of the brim that folds up and it would fit like a regular fitted beanie. So it's basically two patterns in one.

The pointy beanie look had to grow on me. I think I like it in this cap because it is a sport weight and not a heavier. It's cool. I'm not saying I'm cool because I wear it, but it is cool. Actually,  I felt a little like Nicky on This is Us.

Possibly, a good night's sleep could fix that. But it's like 2 in the morning right now as I hurry to finish this. It's now or next week. And waiting til next week is why I haven't blogged in a long time. :/

 (more on my ravelry, Youtube, and flickr)

So, I feel really good about writing a post after a long hiatus. I have to keep the momentum going, which shouldn't be hard because I have like everything I knit last year to post about. I'll become known on instagram as that lady that knits a sweater a day. Be prepared to be spammed with FO posts!

 More on this pattern on my podcast episodes on youtube:  42, 43, 44, and 45

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Episode 44: Goal #1- Fixing and Finishing

This is long but it's your faults, ha! We just have lots of goals and thoughts on when to keep things and when to let go.

This is where I record the eleventy billionth knitting podcast. 

On my blog:
On Ravelry as mamatronic: 
On instagram as @mysocalledhandmadelife:

My question for you: What are some ideas for doing a sort of Isaiah 58 fast (spend yourself on the needy, on the hungry, on the oppressed, and on the poor wanderer)? How would you go about doing that?

Stuff I mention in Episode 44:

Jen Geigley's Visions Pattern book:

Enchanted Rock State Park:
Bistro at Vaudeville in Fredericksburg:
and Hondo's on Main:

Jennifer Beale's KAL :
Winston by Jane Richmond:
Her seed stitch modifications:

My Sunset Highway:
Odeline socks by Melanie Keatley:

Color Craze by Tamy Gore:

My Plaid sweater:

Chasing Rabbits Fiber:

Love Note by Tin Can Knits:

Columbia by Dawn Barker:

Some Alexandra Tavel projects:

Voyager Cap:

Campfire Blanket Scarf:

French Market Bag:

Crossbody Canteen Bag:

Lion Brand Re-Up yarn:

Flower Child Circle Tank:

Streamline Tank:

The Traveling Afghan Project:

Aquarian Baby Blanket- Lavanya Patricella:

My Attic 24 Granny Stripe Blanket:

Scrappy Blanket Makealong:

Mockingbird Fiber Co Podcast:

Els' podcast- IGAIA Knits:

Day One Journal App:

Slow Home Podcast:

Wooden Jewelry/ trinket trays:

Isaiah 58: