Archive for the 'It’s the process' Category

Stitching every day

Friday, January 21st, 2011

I bought this book for my new Kindle:  365:  A Daily Creativity Journal:  Make Something Every Day and Change Your Life.  When I ran across this book, I was in search of a daily meditation book I could keep on my Kindle, something like Barbara Crafton’s The Sewing Room:  Uncommon Reflections of Life, Love, and Work.  A creativity journal was not really what I was looking for, yet, as in all things, what I find is often not what I was searching for.  I’m not even really sure why I bought this book, to tell the truth.  It simply “spoke” to me.

Of course, I’m quite familiar with the concept of a daily creative effort and the way in which committing to such an effort can act as a spur to creativity, a path to discipline, and even a spiritual practice of sorts.  Growing up, our father got up every morning quite early before going to work and sat down to write.  When I was a small child, he wrote on a typewriter (accompanied by much cursing, as he was a poor typist).  Later, he upgraded to a DOS-based computer system and word-processing program, complete with daisy-wheel printer.  Now, of course, he has an up-to-date (well, fairly) computer with an ergonomic keyboard and laser printer.  There are times, however, when he goes out-of-town or stays with family, that he still writes in longhand with a clipboard, paper, and pen.  The point is, in the 40 years of my life, I could probably count on one hand the number of times that he has skipped his morning writing session.  Very few people have this kind of discipline.  As a child, I took my dad’s discipline for granted, but when I really stop to think about it, it is astounding and awe-inspiring.

So, with such an example before me, I really have no excuse.

My new book is written by Noah Scalin, a man who resolved to make a skull a day for a year.  He used all kinds of media.  Some of his projects were small, and some were very large.  Some were permanent, and some were temporary, recorded for posterity only in photos.  Some were solo efforts, and some he made with friends.  The only rule was that he would make one image of skull each day.  All other factors were variable.  He recorded his efforts over the course of the year in a blog, and now has written this creativity journal as well as published a book of the skull images.

Yesterday I sat down and did a little brainstorming about what my year-long project might be.  A number of things occurred to me, but with Scalin’s advice to keep the outlines broad enough to remain interesting and flexible, I decided on these two year-long resolutions.

1.  Stitch every day for a year.

2.  Finish one project a month for a year.

Number one is cheating a little, I admit, since I normally stitch every day anyway.  By stitching, I mean knitting, cross-stitching (which I have been doing a lot of lately), sewing, and quilting.  I am deliberately keeping my definition broad here so as to leave myself lots of room to switch media and projects at will–something else I typically do anyway.

But resolution number one leads me to resolution number two–something a little harder for a craft transient such as myself.  I have many, many unfinished projects languishing in dark corners, drawers, and bags.  You see, my vow is to finish, not just any project, but a currently unfinished project every month.  At least one a month.  In any medium.  There are many possibilities here–afghans, sweaters, socks, shawls, quilts, cross-stitch projects.

Let the stitching begin.

Notes from the ice storm

Saturday, December 22nd, 2007

Last week we here in the Midwest had our own bad storm, but instead of snow, what we got was ice.  It was bad, bad, bad.

Here are my pictures of the aftermath.

ice storm 12-07                                                              This gives you a good idea of the amount of ice that was on every branch and twig.

ice storm 12-07                                   The ice weighing down the trees.

ice storm 12-07                                   The half of a tree that came down on my roof.

ice storm 12-07                                     A side view.

ice storm 12-07                                                          The tree split right at the base.

ice storm 12-07                                      The pine tree in my side yard weighted down by ice.

ice storm 12-07                                                         The elm in my back yard.

I wish you all a wonderful holiday season, full of joy and happiness and free from ice.


Sunday, October 7th, 2007

Ellen has been in California all week, and every day for the past week I have been saying to myself, “I need to write a blog post.  I need to write a blog post.”  But it hasn’t gotten done.  Until today.  So, herewith, I offer these thoughts.

A.  I have been working on the blue Corriedale that I wrote about last week.  Mostly combing, but also a bit of actual spinning.

corriedale lambswool on the wheel

B.  It has been in the upper 80’s and almost 90 for several days this past week.  In early October!  I don’t like it.  I’m not one of those nuts who actually enjoy hot weather.  When I run the world, it will be against the law (at least in NW Missouri) for the temperature to be above 75 F after September 15.

C.  The grass needs to be mowed.  Again!  No doubt due to those unseasonably warm temperatures.  Another good reason for it to get cool in the fall and stay that way.

D.  I have finished another sock and started work on the second of the pair.  Here’s the first:


The yarn is Claudia Hand Paints, fingering weight 100% merino, in the colorway John B.  Purchased in California this summer.

E.  I came home one day this week and found my home invaded by tiny ants.  They were all over the floor in the back porch area and in the kitchen as well.  I grabbed the vacuum before I even sat down (a first for me, I’ll tell you) and ruthlessly vacuumed all those little suckers up.  I blame it on the warm weather.

F.  I’ve gotten back to work on the design/swatch inspired by (I almost hate to bring this up) the sweater from The Holiday.  I haven’t pictured it here because I have a goal of sending this design in to one of the knitting magazines, and I don’t think it’s right to put designs on the blog when my goal is to get them published. 

G.  Focus.  Set goals.

H.  Hugo gave me the raspberry earlier today.

Hugo 10-7-07

I guess he’s unhappy with the service.


How do you like them apples?

Wednesday, September 12th, 2007

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I laughed out loud at Shelley’s “burial” of the apple in the sofa.  And then I showed it to Harvey, and he laughed out loud too.  And then I showed it to my co-workers…

And then….well, OK, I’m going to have to back up here a bit.

I’ve been doing some spinning lately, and have gotten back to work on the white Suffolk lamb’s wool.

white lamb's wool 

I’m combing this on my small hand combs, which produces a beautiful spinning fiber that is very easy to spin,

white Suffolk on wheel 

but, like all combing, also produces a lot of waste.  In the picture of the fiber above, you can see that waste fiber tucked down there on the left-hand side of of the basket.

Well, on Monday evening I was spinning away, and when I went to bed I put everything away except that I left this:

waste fiber on the couch

on the couch.  Yes, that’s right, it’s a small tuft of waste fiber shoved under the pillow.

When I arrived home on Tuesday afternoon, that little tuft had been transformed into this:

Hugo's nest

Although it may not be completely apparent to the untrained eye, it’s clear to me that Hugo had been hard at work here, making a little doggie nest out of this wool, and happily sleeping on it for most of the day.  (If you look closely, you can see the dog fur there on the black couch.)  Imagine, if you will, a large dog working and working and working to get that little bit of wool spread out into a nice comfy mat to lie down on.  I have no doubt that he would have made a giant, Hugo-sized wool mat had he had enough raw materials to work with. 

You’ve got to admire that kind of persistence.

So, Shelley, I think Hugo has seen your bet and raised you one.  How do you like them apples?

A quarter of a century plus

Wednesday, September 5th, 2007

Today is Alex’s birthday, so if you get a minute, could you drop him a little birthday greeting in the comments? I’m sure he’d be mighty appreciative.
Portrait of a man who is now a year older, although you’d never know it. I attribute his youthful appearance to the beneficial effects of living with me. Okay, and also the minor fact that he’s well under thirty.

In honor of his birthday, and because he secretly likes this sort of flattery, I have assembled a list of the qualities that make him so great. The list is in no way meant to be comprehensive (as we say in academia when we are hedging), but it is a healthy start.

Why Alex Is So Great: A Completely Objective List of Attributes According to His Wife:

1. Alex frequently helps people out with no expectation of compensation, reward, or reciprocal favors. He’s just decent like that.

2. Alex has a great sense of humor and is extremely funny himself. This makes life with him so much fun. (Of course, I happen to think the one truly unforgiveable human sin is humorlessness. It it practically a form of cruelty.)

He has also endeared himself to me by invariably laughing at my jokes. A man who likes a funny woman is a good man indeed.

3. Alex is very smart.

He is the kind of smart that allows him to remember the etymology of the word “walnut” even though he last looked that up four years ago, to calculate the half life of a small polonium sample, to write database programs for the computer for fun, and to think his way around a historical question.

But he also has the kinds of smarts you need to tackle day-to-day problems. In a rational fashion.

I’ve seen some irrational in my lifetime, folks, and I can tell you: I like rational better.

4. Alex is generally cheerful. He tries, and mostly succeeds, in focusing on the good aspects of the day.

This is harder to do than it sounds.

5. Alex treats other people with kindness and respect, even if they are not in positions of great power or authority.

If you ask me, the way a person treats the waiter, the bus driver, the receptionist, or the cashier at CVS is a better test of character than the way he or she treats the CEO of General Motors or the Director of Admissions at Yale.

Alex passes.

6. Alex works really hard at the things he loves to do, like history of science, but he doesn’t use that as an excuse to act superior.

7. He is not easily flustered by snafus when they involve things over which we have no control. Like traffic. Or the dog getting skunked. Three times in the span of two months.

This is a great quality because life is frankly full of skunky dogs, infestations of mice, traffic jams, thunderstorms, grainy peaches, and flat tires.

8. Alex married me, which is a testament to his excellent and discerning taste.

9. He can’t carry a tune, but he’s got rhythm. Who could ask for anything more?

10. And lastly, he’s really cute.

Happy birthday, Alex! And many more!

Hard times, come again no more

Tuesday, September 4th, 2007

Those faithful blog readers among you (and there are many, bless your hearts!) may have noticed that my posts have been somewhat few and far between lately.  There is a reason for this, although it is complicated and involves others who have as much right to their privacy as anyone else.

Trying to write a good blog is hard, I’ve found, for that very reason.  How much do you reveal about your personal life?  And, because all of us have lives that intersect with others’ lives in a myriad of ways, how much can you, in good faith, reveal about the lives of those close to you?

Do you stick slavishly to the topic at all times?  Most of you know by now that Ellen and I don’t really do that.  It would be easier, in some ways, but I think the blog would be the poorer for it.  After all, why do we read blogs?  For the topic, yes, but also for the glimpse into another person’s life.  And yet, if those of us who write blogs reveal too much about our lives, we risk violating the privacy of those people dearest to us, at worst, or simply becoming banal and tedious, at best.  (I firmly believe that no one really wants to read about how much cereal I ate for breakfast.)

But, and this is a big but, how in the world am I to write cheerfully about knitting or anything else when the top tier of my mind is constantly taken up with a large and distressing problem?  But, you see, I can’t write about that problem openly on the blog because it would mean violating the privacy of another, someone whom I love dearly and believe has the right not to have his troubles written up on the internet for all the world to see.

All of this is a long, roundabout way of telling you all that my presence on the blog will be decreased for a while.  My goal is to write a post once a week; that’s about what I’ve been managing for the last several weeks.  More than that, I’m finding, I just cannot accomplish right now.

My thanks and love go out to my dear sister, Ellen, who has not pressured or chided me in any way during this time, and who has graciously offered to take over the bulk of the blogging for now.  And my gratitude and appreciation go out to all of you as well, our long-standing as well as our new readers.

I ask for your prayers.

Are you working on something new?

Monday, August 27th, 2007

Well, yes and no.

As it happens, my new job (well, it’s not really a new job, just a different position in the same old job) looks like it’s going to afford me lots of knitting time.  Of course, the knitting needs to be smallish, portable, and somewhat mindless.  And what fits that description better than socks, I ask you?  Well, nothing, that’s what.  So it seems that I’m going to get lots of socks made this year.

I am virtually finished with the soldier socks.  The second one just needs a bindoff, and then both need to have the ends worked in.

soldier socks

After I finish these, I plan on starting a pair for my friend H., whom I have promised a pair of socks for winter.  (Practically as soon as I told him that, he started asking me, “How are my socks coming?”)  Of course, they will be in subdued and masculine colors, appropriate to his manly pride.  (See here and here.)  Fortunately, I did not have to go through the entire and dreaded “interview” for the proposed socks, just gave him two balls of yarn from which to choose.

In the “something new” category, I have been playing around again with some ribbon yarn with which I have played around before.  (That sounds a little kinky, doesn’t it?  Well, I’ll just let you think whatever you want…)  After much trial and error, I have settled on a simple garter rib pattern with V-neck shaping.

sweater swatch

This is just a swatch, although I realize that it does actually look like a little sweater front.  (“Little” being the operative word there.)  I’m envisioning this as a somewhat fitted, short-sleeve sweater with raglan shoulder shaping.  Minimal finishing–just a self-finishing neckline which you can see in the photo above.

For those of you who might be wondering, no, I never have finished Rumpelstiltskin.  It is sitting on my couch in a wad, reproaching me silently every time I look at it.  So I don’t look at it.

I am coming along with projects in my new house, including my stated goal of decorating  with my vast supply of yarn and fiber.

basket of fiber

basket of fiber

I’m running out of baskets.  Time to a) hit up the garage sales again and/or b) get creative.  Do you think it would be in poor taste to just put giant wads of unspun fiber all around the house?

Outside looking in

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007

By popular demand (well, OK, really just Jennifer–hi Jennifer!), I’ve decided to post a little virtual tour of the outside of my new house.

Starting with, naturally, the front door.

door of house 8-22-07

The house faces west.

And here’s the entire front side (the west side, as established above.)

front of house 8-22-07 

Looking down the sidewalk to the south.  The cemetery is a block away, and a very nice place to walk Hugo.

looking to the south 8-22-07

See those cool stone (maybe concrete) square pillars?  Those have been there for many moons, and are one of my favorite features of the yard.  Here’s a closeup.

stone pillar 

This is the southeast corner of the yard; the tree in the back corner is an elm, and in the foreground there are some kind of berry canes–I’m looking forward to finding out what kind next summer.

southeast corner 8-22-07

Moving on around the house in a counter-clockwise fashion, this is a view of the back door and the small back deck.

back door and deck 8-22-07 

The northeast corner of the house, and some of the trees in the backyard.

northeast corner 8-22-07 

The north yard.  I think those two trees there are just the perfect distance apart to support a hammock.

north side of house 8-22-07 

The large picture window on the north side.

north side of house 8-22-07 

And, moving back around to the front of the house, the large tree right outside the front door, which is a favorite with the local cats.

tree 8-22-07 

There’s one now!

kitty in the tree 8-20-07 

This drives Hugo bonkers, as you can imagine.   He can see those kitties in the tree out the front window, but he can’t get to them. 

He lives in a constant state of anxiety tempered with hope, as do I.

Moving in and moving on

Tuesday, August 14th, 2007

Over the past week I have been moving in to my new house.  It’s hard to describe how I feel about this; I wasn’t really prepared for how thrilling it would be to have my own space:  mine, all mine.

I can do things like put beautiful yarn in baskets and set them around the house, just because I like to see them there.

decorating with yarn 

Put my spinning wheel in the middle of the room if I want to.  Or both wheels, for that matter.

spinning wheel  

Have Hugo back with me.

Hugo 8-14-07 

Put books and bookshelves wherever I wish.

bookshelf in corner 

Decide by myself where every little thing goes in the kitchen.

kitchen 8-14-07

Fill up all the storage space with fiber.

storage in bedroom 

Buy my own tools.


And use them to put up towel bars just where I would like them.

towel bar 

As well as an entire closet system.  (I put this up by myself this morning–very empowering.)

closet system

If things don’t get done (which is also happening, let’s face it), I have no one to blame but myself.  But as things do get done, it’s incredibly satisfying.

Tomorrow:  mow the lawn and get all my clothes hung up on the new closet system.

Moving on.  Focus.  Set goals.

The Closer

Tuesday, August 7th, 2007

I am closing on my new house today.  This simultaneously excites me incredibly and scares the peewaddin’ out of me, as my mother would say.

On the one hand, I get to pick out everything myself, arrange it all to my own liking, and stay up till 3 a.m. playing the piano if I want to.  Yee haw!  On the other hand, I’m going to have to mow the lawn, hook up the washer and dryer, and find a way to float my own boat financially.  Oy vey!  The idea of personal growth is all well and good until you’re actually forced into it, I find. 

So at this point, when I’m not actively freaking out, I’m actively packing.

boxes                                                                      Boxes full of books, mostly.

I’m a little embarrassed to say that I actually have not done that much packing up until now.  There are several reasons for this, the first and foremost of which is that the process of buying the house has been so fraught with stress, anxiety, and uncertainty, that I think on some level I felt that to start packing would be to tempt fate.  Totally unreasonable, I know, but there it is.  Also, I am moving a total of two blocks down the street, and as Ellen pointed out with her recent move next door, there are just some things that are easier to just pick up and walk over.  (Or, in my case, set in the front seat of the truck.)  And, let’s face it, I am naturally lazy.

But now I have begun!  It’s never too late!

And I’m reminded once again (as if I really needed it), just how much yarn and fiber I have.  Witness this large tub o’ stash.

tub o' stash                                                      Now, this may look like a manageable tub full of fibery things, but that actually could not be further from the truth.  It is HUGE.  It is a (brace yourself) 55 gallon tub.  Luckily, it has little wheels on the bottom so that it can roll around on the floor.  I am carefully not thinking of the moment when I have to lift it into the back of the truck.

Then, I have a closet full of fiber and yarn. 

stash closet                                                                    The top.

stash closet                                                                    The bottom.

I am certain that the builder of this apartment thought of this closet as a linen closet, and if you look closely in the photos above, you can see a set of pink sheets and a couple of purple towels.  I’m using it as a linen closet, see?

As far as the amount of stash in there, well, I really don’t quite know what to say.  But I will remind you that I never moved all the stash out of the house I lived in with Rob.  There is at least as much, if not more, still at the house.  Ahem.  Let us just draw the curtain of privacy over that issue, shall we?

When I absolutely have to sit down and calm myself, I am doing a little knitting and spinning.  I started the second sock for my soldier buddy.

second soldier sock 

And I’m working on the wool/silk laceweight on the Kromski.

wool/silk on wheel 

It’s humbling to me to try to spin this fine.  The yarn keeps breaking, or I don’t get enough twist in it, or sometimes I get too much twist in it.  I learn what I need to do, and then I lose focus or try to go too fast and I forget.

Like I said, personal growth is a harsh taskmistress.