Sunday, April 30, 2017

Ruminations...


Have you ever been going along, minding your own business,  happily making things you enjoy making, or doing things you enjoy doing, and suddenly someone expresses the thought that spending the time and money to say, hand knit or crochet that thing is just lost on them - because, after all, you can buy it so much cheaper than you can make it, or they would consider the activity a waste of their time?

I'm pretty sure my sock-knitting friends here have had that happen to them from time to time. Artistic folks and craftspersons who love experimenting with different tools and techniques surely have seen their fair share of raised eyebrows when some practical soul has trouble comprehending spending their time on pursuits that lead nowhere "useful".

Anyone reading this iron their sheets? I can imagine the jaw-droppings you've witnessed if you've ever publicly admitted to ironing anything - let alone bed linens. I iron certain items of clothing (a topic which receives a fair amount of tongue wagging when the subject comes up in my circles), but I confess, before watching this video, I would have dropped my jaw over the idea of ironing sheets:


Now that I've watched it, though, I'll admit I wonder how much nicer ironed sheets feel than my never-ironed sheets do. This gal ironed and folded that sheet in less than four minutes! Trading four minutes of a small bit of (not even hard) labor for 6-8 hours of yummy sleep on smooth sheets seems a reasonable trade-off. Am I going to give it a try? Probably not. But I'm curious, nonetheless. ;^)

Now seems as good a time as any to tell you that when I have the time and the weather permits, I line-dry our bed sheets. I didn't always. For years I was just too, I don't know... busy? modern? practical? I tend to consider myself all of these, but one day I bought a retracting clothesline to attach to our shed and strung the line between the shed and a post on our back patio and I decided to dry all sorts of things I had previously just tossed into the clothes dryer, bed linens among them. Just to see if I would enjoy doing it.  At the time I think I was also curious how many energy pennies I might save in the process. I quickly found the trade-off of a few extra hours of drying time for the pleasurable experience of slipping in between crisp sheets that smell faintly of the outdoors completely worthwhile. I couldn't care less if I'm saving any money. I dare say I might do it if it cost me money.

Years ago, I remember a discussion on an online forum where one of the members of the community told about how she enjoyed artistically decorating packaging for items she mailed out. She knew the artwork would likely get damaged and ruined with the rough handling it received by our US postal service. She knew that the recipient would probably throw the packaging away when they opened it. She even suffered the comments of many who felt compelled to tell her what a waste of time this was. I remember how I both disbelieved that someone would take the time to create artwork on something that would be abused and shortly after being received would probably be thrown away, and at the same time imagined the delight at receiving something from her. While creating has always been a part of who I am, I remember thinking "I'm too practical to indulge in something like this". And I felt poorer for thinking it.  The more I thought about it, I realized I felt something akin to admiration for this person that she did this - that she found an expression for the creativity inside her while bringing others, I would imagine, a very curious delight.

Are your wheels turning? Have you begun to think of some things you do that others wouldn't dream of (or perhaps have just never thought of) doing? Things, that while they may appear on the surface to be unnecessary work, they add some true, if small, pleasure to your life. Pleasure that's hard to quantify and is impossible to measure against such practical units of measure like money or time.


The immeasurable pleasurable thing I'm contemplating today is the humble hand-knitted or crocheted dishcloth. Until I had made my first one, I truly didn't recognize how good it felt to use something I had made for such an everyday, even mundane, task. Add to that, the squishy softness of some cottons and all the fun colors, and dish washing was elevated to something almost enjoyable for me.


Actually, maybe I'm just weird, but I often actually do enjoy the meditative quiet of washing dishes in warm soapy water, looking out my kitchen window at God's beautiful creation, sometimes seeing children playing in the yards behind ours, or watching the sky turn light or dark, depending on the time of day I find myself standing in front of that window.

That said, of course, there are times when washing dishes is the last thing I want to do, and I do rotate, to some degree, this duty with others in my household. But my point is... a simple handmade dishcloth is something I'm conscious of that adds pleasure to those few minutes for me every day.
 
 

Thinking about this, and knowing that this weekend I was going to be connecting to some very productively creative people (that's you, dear reader), got me to wondering what my creative friends enjoy immersing themselves in that others don't "get" (or wouldn't "get" if they knew you did... whatever the thing is).




What are some things, that on the surface may appear to hold no real extrinsic value, but you derive enough pleasure from that you still do them? You can certainly share artsy-crafty stuff, but I hope to also hear of things that are outside of that realm. I hope to read your ideas in the comments below.





Sunday, April 23, 2017

Do overs...

If you check back to last week you'll possibly notice that I have changed up my Lost In Time Shawl/Scarf.


At first I was just going to rip back a bit to fix what, to me, felt like a too-wide section of teal where I had left off.  But for some reason as I ripped back, I kept ending up with a spot at the end of each row where I couldn't just pick up the yarn and start crocheting from.  It was weird and it didn't make any sense to me, but it kept happening.   It was like I was ripping the rows out backwards.  But how could I do that?

Anyway, at some point I had ripped back so far, and because I was never quite settled over the bright green popcorn stitches early on, it started to make more sense to just start this thing over.   So I did. And I've gotta say... this second try feels better to me.

I also decided to reign in my color choices - from something like eight or nine colors to just five colors.  That was a relief, as well.  While I love the riotous shawls some have made from this pattern, too many colors to figure out just made me nervous I came to realize.   With fewer colors, I was able to write out a plan for the placement of those colors - except that I've already goofed up that plan.  In the end, though, I don't think the color placement plan needs to be set in stone, but it can still serve as a guideline of sorts.  So, we'll see how I like this scarf as it progresses from here. 

I know there's really nothing exactly new here, except that I brought you into my process a bit.

Speaking of processes...

A few weeks ago I started crocheting a Corner to Corner blanket - thinking I was going to make it as simple as possible - basically, all one color, with an interesting (contrasting) border, perhaps.  Well... turns out I am really good at taking a simple-as-can-be project and making it a most complicated one.

Somehow the 10 or so skeins of yarn I had on hand to make this blanket with came from about six different dye lots.  What was I thinking?!?   Clearly I wasn't thinking at all.  I know better than to buy yarn from different dye lots - thinking I'm going to put them together in the same project.  That is never a good idea.  But none the wiser (to the fact that I had different dye lots) I just dived right in to making this blanket - all the pretty skeins of yarn looked the same to me in the basket.  And then it came time to add a second skein to my work.  And the difference was glaring.  One skein had a gray cast and one had a definite beige cast.

Sigh.

There was no way I was going to buy more of this yarn to make this blanket.  I also didn't want a blanket that had big sections that were different from other sections, and I didn't really didn't want to give up on it either.  Fellow Yopper, Stefanie (finding herself working with different shades of the same color on her Pink Flamingo on the Lawn sweater), had inspired me to consider how to work with this sort of problem.  Stefanie simply alternated rows between the two different yarns and the end result is she has an interesting tonal thing going in her sweater.  The problem with the C2C stitch pattern is that alternating the different dye lots among different rows won't work so well because the rows aren't made of narrow knitted stitches that run across the fabric.  The rows in a C2C pattern are fat, chunky things that run on the diagonal.  The result I would get, alternating the skeins between the rows in this blanket, would not be as subtle, or interesting as Stefanie's sweater. 

So, rather than just switch back and forth every other row (which would be depressing enough), I decided that I would rip back and start over, this time interspersing sections of the darker yarn amongst the rows made up of the lighter yarn.  Randomly.  With no plan or real forethought. Hoping for something that looks kind of intentional in its randomness.

Can you see the variations in the colors?   Do the variations look random enough?

But, of course, this method means that I can't carry the yarn.  It means that every time I change the color I have to join yarns, snip,  and then do something with the ends.  I was dutifully weaving them in, until I thought, there's got to be a better way.   And don't you know.... there are a number of better ways. 

I searched and found the Braided Join.   And the Knotless Join.  I've known for some time there is a Magic Knot, but honestly...  I have trouble feeling confident that this would truly never come undone.  While I'm going to give the Braided Join more thought and practice, so far I've been having the most success using the Russian Join.    And I'm liking it so much that until I hear some horror stories about how any of these joins have come undone, I think I may try to use these kinds of joins when making blankets in the future - especially when adding yarn of the same color.  I don't suppose these methods work very well when joining a new color at the end of row - though I'm open to hearing if there are ways to join new colors at the ends/beginnings of rows without a lot of yarn weaving, or carrying yarns?   Really, I'd love to know if that's even possible.

To see what other Yoppers are up to, visit our group on Ravelry.










Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Weekend...

I'm not sure what happened to my week, but there wasn't much crocheting or knitting except that
earlier in the week I joined The Other 11 Months Group on Ravely as they started a new CAL - The Lost In Time Shawl. The pattern is actually pretty simple, and is very well written. I highly recommend it.   Here is a progress picture of mine:


The sections that appear yellow-ish are really a lime green.  While the lime green is prettier than the yellow it is showing up as, I do kind of wish I hadn't made that "popcorn" row early on using it. It just feels so bright.  I don't regret it enough to rip back, so hopefully after I get some more length on this and more colors added, the lime green will not look so bright to me.

~~~~~

The weekend was busy with a Good Friday worship service, a birthday celebration, and then Easter Morning worship.  

Our Good Friday service is a combined service of 6 or 7 (at least) churches.  The church it's held in is an older country church that has a beautiful, large sanctuary.   It's a wonderful service - and to make it even better, we get to see people whose lives have intersected ours over the nearly 19 years we've lived here, but our paths have diverged for one reason or another.  It's almost like a homecoming - except that we're all meeting at a new place.

Then Saturday night we went out to eat at a unique place in Indianapolis.  Rook (with street-food inspired, Asian cuisine) is at the northeast edge of the Fountain Square area - an old, but revitalized part of Indy where pubs and restaurants and some non-food businesses line Virginia Avenue and apartment buildings are fitted in - sometimes above the eateries and sometimes angling down side streets.   It was a beautiful spring evening, with music and wonderful smells wafting out of various eateries as we walked a bit.

Oldest son requested it as a place to have his birthday dinner and while there wasn't a thing on the menu any of us could recognize, we happily obliged.  It was a fun adventure food-wise.  Here am I with my oldest and youngest sons waiting outside for middle son and his girlfriend to arrive:


We're laughing at my husband who couldn't seem to figure out how to take a picture with my phone.


Or so we thought.  Unbeknownst to all of us, he was actually, accidentally snapping dozens and dozens of pictures.


We weren't going to get a clear picture from my phone camera if our lives depended on it, but I'll take a fuzzy, happy picture of laughter any day.

~~~~~

Then, this morning was Easter worship service at our church.  There's always an extra special joy on Resurrection Sunday - just as there should be.  This year we came home and I'm not doing anything else with my day except relaxing and posting this.  Normally, we get together with extended family, but no one else was making it happen, and I wasn't up to the task of making a big meal this year so we're doing the next best thing.  Resting.  Or maybe it's the best thing.  :)

To see what other Yoppers are up to, visit our group on Ravelry.







Sunday, April 9, 2017

Yarny goodness...

I've worked a bit more on the Round Jacob's Ladder baby blanket and decided to braid up the open spaces to the point where I left off yesterday.   (The lighter blue yarn is much prettier in real life.  For some reason it wants to photograph as a grayish, sort of mint green.  The yarn I'm using is Hobby Lobby's ILTY in the colors White, Sea Blue and Arctic Blue)


I just can't get over how simple this blanket is to crochet.  To be completely honest, though, the pattern is a tad rough.  I don't point that out to be critical, but to give a heads up.  At first glance the pattern may not feel intuitive at all, but once you decipher some of the odd punctuation in the pattern, this blanket is a breeze to work up.  Seriously...   replace a period with a comma here or there (or vice versa), and you're all set.

Also... I'm participating in the Red Heart Lover's spring blanket CAL, and this week I started a Corner to Corner blanket in the fairly unimpressive colorway Aran Fleck:


It doesn't look like much at the moment, but I hope to make it more interesting with a toffee colored border.  I'm thinking that will be fitting for what I hope will  be a masculine looking throw.

Other than this and some more embroidery on my pillowcases, that's all there has been on the crafty front this week. I have a number of home projects to get going on and I'm trying to find the motivation to get them started.  Getting started is always the hardest, isn't it?  Thankfully, spring weather boosts the spirits and makes "starting" a little easier somehow.  Or so I'm telling myself right now.   I'm so very glad for tulips blooming, our having sown grass seed yesterday, and now entertaining thoughts of pretty flowers soon to be planted.  But projects and work will wait for tomorrow.  On this beautiful warm Sunday afternoon I'm going to go outside and enjoy crocheting in the fresh air. 🌞

To see what other Yoppers are up to, visit our group on Ravelry.




Sunday, April 2, 2017

All new things...

After finishing a large project and while waiting for two new CALs (Crochet-A-Longs) to begin in April, for the last couple of weeks I've tried to content myself with some simple, small crafts.

First I knit.  And then I knit.  And then I knit some more simple dishcloth patterns.   Here are two cloths made with a pattern called Boxes:

Finally I had knit so much that one of the joints on one of my fingers started to hurt.  I obviously had overdone it, so I gave knitting a break and looked for something else to satisfy my itch to create.   I had recently bought (what I thought was) a complete kit to embroider pillowcases, and I decided to get that out.  Well, imagine my surprise when I opened the package to find stamped pillowcases, but no embroidery floss.   I've since learned that this is pretty standard, so now I know...   and I'm just glad I only paid half price for the "kit" I picked out.   Fortunately, I had some embroidery floss in my crafts stash and I was able to approximate the colors that were suggested in the pattern.   So I got busy embroidering for the first time in years.


I know...  it's super simple - with only four stitches to complete the pattern (running stitch, loop stitch, french knot and satin stitch.  I'm transported back to my young girl days when I first learned to embroider - remembering these simple stitches that probably made up very simple designs. In fact, I probably once upon a time embroidered a simple design pretty much exactly like the one above. Simple seems about right, though. It's soothing and enjoyable.

Inspired by picking embroidery back up, when I was in Jo-Ann's last week with a handful of 50% off coupons I looked through their pillowcase "kits" and chose a more involved pattern to try next.  And then when I was in the embroidery floss aisle I happened to notice that they sold packages of plain pillowcases.  Two to a set.   At half the price of the "kits".  Wow!  Using my 50% off coupons and stamping a picture on the pillowcases myself I could create my own "kit" for significantly less than buying discounted pre-stamped pillowcases.  I felt so clever.  I know... if I was really clever I would just draw a design on a pillowcase to embroider, but I'm not that clever -- yet.   Anyway... for now I am enjoying this.  And getting back to embroidery has been on my YOP list for the last two years.  Yay me!

And then yesterday being April 1st, I was able to begin crocheting along with some folks on Our Happy CAL group on Ravelry.  We are each crocheting our own Round Jacob's Ladder Baby Blanket.

When I first started creating these weird large chain spaces, I didn't know what to think:

I mean, I knew that the blanket was crocheted with all these chain spaces and somehow later something was to be done with those spaces to create the "ladder" design, but I just couldn't quite imagine how this worked.   It felt like a lot of "going on faith" to just continue on, so I went back to the CAL group on Ravelry to see what anyone else had to say.


One of the other participants in the CAL said she was able to "braid up" the loops as she went and that gave me confidence to give it a try.  Following the instructions at the end of the pattern, I braided up the rows I had completed thus far:


One, by one, each loop is pulled through the loop below it...


Until they're all braided up.


Is that cool or what?!?!  I love this.  And it's very easy to do.  Now I can crochet on, confident that in the end all the crazy big chain spaces will work together to make a pretty blanket with "ladders" radiating out like spokes on a wheel to create the intended design.   What fun it will be to watch this blanket grow.

To see what other Yoppers are up to, visit our group on Ravelry.






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