Monday, December 29, 2008

2009 New Word Selected - "Priorities"

For my long time readers, you know the drill by now. Each year, I pick a word that will guide the year ahead, and hopefully help shape it. My word last year was "awareness" and I think it really helped me change a few bad habits and improve some of my relationships. Awareness naturally leads to several outcomes: 1) change; 2) acceptance or 3) release.

In the fall, I was considering picking the word "Release" for this year - because frankly 2008 has been a pretty crappy year for many people, including myself. The awareness I practiced last year seemed to lead me to getting rid of some "hangers on" in my life that had lingered a bit too long and were dragging me down. You know, some fringe relatives, toxic people and self-made ways of relating to people that just weren't working any more. So toward fall of last year, I started releasing some of those old, dead situations and thought patterns - including an old vision of "me" that was stuck in feeling fat, dumpy and middle aged.

I am still in that process of release - and am planning on symbolically releasing those things - especially on New Year's Eve. But Release for a whole year seemed daunting to me, and frankly a bit scary. I don't think I'm ready for a whole year of that quite yet.

At any rate, as I was contemplating the new year, and during my morning meditation, a new word popped into my head like a new friend walking in the door - PRIORITIES. That is the word which will guide 2009.

Why? Being a big naval gazer and goal setter, I already have some general priorities established. They've stayed pretty constant for a few years now - but those priorities too often get shoved aside and not LIVED on a daily basis. I get so caught up in putting out the daily fires, and just doing whatever maintanence activities are needed for survival that I fail to do the really important things that will have the greatest impact on my life.

So last year's awareness has led me to the realization that my priorities are too often sidelined - the big rocks in my life have too often been displaced by the small rocks and sand of daily existence.

Right now, I'm in the process of emptying out that terrarium of "my life" and selecting the big rocks that will go in first - then the other stuff can filter in around what really matters. Does that make sense?

What will your word be for this year?

Is anyone else ready to release 2008? Whew - I'm getting this bad-ass year's hat and coat right now - ready to close the door on it.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas - The Gift of Friends

Okay, it's Christmas it's not usually my favorite holiday - but this year, I've remembered how very blessed I am with friends. I've been working overtime a lot and hadn't had time to check the mail. Imagine my surprise when I opened up my mailbox today to find a gift - a very special gift from a very special friend, LynnH, of ColorJoy!!!

I've been blessed to find some of my most cherished people over the Internet. Around 2003, after discovering/rediscovering the wonderful world of knitting, I happened upon a wonderful knitting blog by a very colorful and joy-filled person named Lynn. She is beautiful, creative, a talented designer, artist, dancer not to mention a delightful musician and writer. I admire the fact that she has so many talents - any one of which a person would be glad to possess - but she has many. I started reading her ColorJoy blog five years ago, and even with a plethera of blogs now available, hers remains one of my all-time favorites.

One of Lynn's designs I've always loved is her ColorJoy Stole. Well, now she's has a new pattern out called Party Stole. Guess what? She made one for me and sent it in the mail. You can see me enjoying it on a Christmas Day, and I do indeed feel wrapped in joy and warmth.

I have been blessed with some special relatives, but friends like Lynn remind me that friends surround me - even one like her whom I've never even met (in person). If you have a chance - drop by her blog, check out her music (1920's style) and take a peek at her projects and patterns.

It's cliche but so true that friends are some of our greatest gifts. Now back to my stole and a warm cup of tea. Yum!!! I'm curling up with a very good book called MIDDLESEX and sitting by the fire for a while.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Boot Toppers

The next IG (Instant Gratification) project comes to you from Kristin Knits: 27 Designs for Playing With Color. Specifically, the Boot Toppers on page 68. They are SO CUTE and have the added benefit of being 1) fast and 2) easy - my two favorite criteria for knitted projects when I'm in this frame of mind. If you're still looking for last minute gift ideas, these boot toppers would fit the bill perfectly. They could be made in a day (for fast knitters) or two (for slower knitters like me)- and you could put them on all sorts of boots, both casual and dressy. I just finished mine and I love them. I will probably try to make another set for my mother to match her new green boots.

I was so excited about this idea for boot toppers that I went out the other day and bought a pair of women's fashion work boots (Mudd brand) just so I can have something to put the boot toppers on!!! You could actually put these on any kind of boot, including the tall dressier boot.

The boot toppers are knit using two-color Fair Isle knitting (but it's really Beginner Fair Isle) and then you embellish with just a bit of duplicate stitch to make it look more complicated than it really is. Yarn used was Julia yarn, again, which is apparently produced by Kristin Nichols, author of Kristin Knits. She has produced a set of yarn in this Julia line so that the colors all go together. I love her sense of color.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Daughter's Birthday Celebration

Hard to believe that my daughter turns 17 today! And on top of that, it's a snow day - we're both off from school/work.

It's a lovely snow - a downright beautiful, light fluffy snow that really DOES put me in the holiday spirit. In fact, it looks like a lifesize snow globe outside.

Days such as this are unique and rare. A blessed winter day.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Window of Relief

I was all set to work yesterday (Saturday) but due to a computer application being on the fritz, my overtime was unexpectedly called off. Yippeee! So Saturday I had a day off to visit the knitting peeps, do a bit of holiday/birthday shopping. And Saturday night, we spent a wonderful evening with Kay and her family.

You see her here, clowning around with her new marino/roving "wig" ala 1700's. We opened the big box of roving I ordered from Sheepshed Fibers and we had fun playing with it a bit on my drum carder. The roving she's wearing is from a grab bag of fibers, but the best of the lot was the $7.95 white roving mill ends that were wonderfully soft merino. It is great! We're both planning on expermenting with dyeing that roving and seeing what yarn we can spin up with it.

We made a lovely blue/green bat and a pink/burgandy batch with some other roving I had in the closet. Kay had already worked with drum carders when she went to Yarn School a couple of years ago. I think she'll be getting one soon - maybe even for Christmas? Here's hoping.

Ever since I started to spin last summer - I've become obsessed with making my own yarn in all aspects, the spinning, dyeing, carding. I am just beginning this exploration but it's so much fun. Mostly, I've been reading and studying, but I've been buying crockpots at thrift stores, so don't be surprised if you soon see me venturing into dyeing as well.

Here's some lovely silk I've been spinning from the silk yankies we bought at Yarn Barn last week.

If only there were enough hours in the day to practice all the things I'd love to do better.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

It's December again - and instead of "Merry Merry Christmas/Hannukah" I find myself groaning each morning as I wake up counting down the days until it is all over and I can breathe again.

Not only is there Hannukah and Christmas (we sort of half-heartedly celebrate both), but there's also my daughter and husband's birthdays as well as my grandmother's and 6 friend's birthdays.

And I've been working overtime at work to the point where I feel even more rushed and stressed. In short, for me this is NOT the most wonderful time of the year. (Yes, I'm extremely thankful to HAVE a job, and the overtime money is much appreciated, but right now, the time crunch is overshadowing everything else).

When I am time-pressed the most, that's when I realize how very much I rely on knitting and spinning to release the tension and provide relaxation. When I don't have time to even finish knitting a pair of boot toppers (my current project sitting by the wayside), then I get very frustrated and cranky. Instant gratification projects shouldn't stretch out over two weeks, should they? And when my brain is too fried to even knit simple ribbing, it's a signal something's gotta give.

I think this is an especially dismal and stressful season in 2008 in particular, with all the financial worries in the country and the world. No one can be completely sure that they'll even have a job in January.

Sorry to gripe - but the blogging helps me sort of unload and express it. In spite of the stress, I know that I and all of you too, will get through this okay. We'll have time to spend with friends and love ones and maybe instead of feeling out of control and helpless for all we can't BUY, perhaps we can share what has become increasingly precious - a little bit of time and companionship.

I feel most sorry for those single mothers and fathers out there, many of whom I work with, who feel special pressure to produce, at the very least, a decent Christmas for their kids, with very little money to do it.

Here's hoping things get better soon. And 2008 is almost over. Can I hear a "yippee" from the peanut gallery?

Monday, December 08, 2008

A Spinning We Will Go

On Saturday, my friend Kay and I took a "More Spinning" (Intermedidate Spinning) class at Yarn Barn, taught by Cindy Harberger. All I can say is "Wow, what an intense, information-packed 4 hours." Maybe it is because I am a kinesthetic (hands on) learner, but having an experienced spinning teacher beside me guiding the way while I try different techniques is an excellent way for me to learn.

We started by spinning using our own intrinsic method and style for about half an hour while she went around the room observing each of us and writing up a little index card describing our current style, with suggestions on how to improve both the technique and ergonomics of our current spinning method. It may sound scary being critiqued on one's spinning, but it was very nonjudgmental, friendly, and with all the best intentions - to help us become better and more talented spinners. And I've seen such improvement in my spinning from the first session with her, two months ago, to now.

Last time, she suggested that the posture I was using to spin might eventually cause pain in my right hip - and she was right, I'd already begun to experience mild hip pain, but with her suggestion on sitting differently, I've been able to spin in total comfort for the past two months.

She analyzed my current style as "Short draw, but allowing draught against twist." What this means is that I do a short draw, but I occasionally take my hand off of contact with the fiber, which causes a nubbiness or unevenness that can be solved by keeping my hands in constant contact with the fiber. We practiced this new way of spinning short draw, and it produced much smoother yarn. But now I know that if I ever want that nubbiness, how to produce it.

We practiced modified long draw and true long draw, which she says that very few people do a TRUE long draw, but it can be very effective for some types of fibers. Kay was able to perfect both the modified long draw and long draw very well. I think her natural style is modified long draw.

Treadling: medium fast. As with everything else, I tend to do it a little faster than I probably need to. The teacher suggested that I slow the pace of my treadling just a bit. She says that we live our lives at such a fast pace, that it sometimes transfers over into our spinning - but in fact our "real life" should mimic our spinning pace - medium paced and relaxed most of the time.

We discussed woolen vs. worsted weight yarn, and how to produce both. She says that most spinners do a combination such as semi-woolen or semi-worsted. Two yarns can appear to be the same thickness, yet the weight and handling characteristics of each can be quite different, depending on how it was spun.

Worsted yarns - extremely strong, smooth and durable, are produced from parallel fibers. You can get this effect by aligning the fibers by using hand carders, in particular, and creating a little "rolag" out of the fiber. We learned how to do this, and at first, I couldn't do it very well. Because I am left handed, I was getting my handedness confused. But Jane, another student in the class, helped orient me and practiced with me, which helped so much. By the time we made a second rolag, it turned out much better.

Woolen yarns, on the other hand, are made from randomly oriented fibers and they are soft, warmer (because they incororate more insolated air space) and not as hard-wearing as worsteds.

Clarification from Cindy the Instructor: True worsted is prepared only from combed fibers and spun and plied butt to tip. Rolag preparation is used to create woolen yarns. Rolags rolled in the conventional way (as we practiced) creates a preparation that has the fibers at perpendicular to the orifice. Worsted spinning requires fibers to be "in parallel" with the orifice.

We then moved on to learning about and spinning many different fibers from our "goody bag." We learned that Merino would made a great woolen-spun yarn. It was easy to spin.

Cotton - 1" staple length and very hard to spin because of short fibers, you would best use the smallest/fastest ratio on your wheel, and treadle fast! When we worked with it, my cotton kept breaking off, and I finally gave up. I don't like cotton anyway.

Flax - use a lot of twist, dampen fiber to make it more smooth to spin. She suggests wearing a belt when you spin it, or use a distaff to put the fiber through.

Mohair - comes from a goat, very shiny and has a halo. It is best spun from the fold.

Cashmere (we didn't practice spinning this) but did you know that some cashmere is raised in Texas and some in Mongolia? So next time you buy cashmere fiber, find out which is it. The Mongolian cashmere is softer, more luxurious fleece.

Alpaca - 3 -5" staple length. the fiber has a hollow core (creating good insolution) so this fiber is not only extremely soft but is WARM. It's best spun from the fold. Some people are allergic to this fiber. Suri is the best and most expensive Alpaca.

Silk - yum!! We spun this and everyone loved it. Of course, silk worms produce silk. The teacher told us about these wonderful "silk hankies" which is a packet of silk you can buy at Yarn Barn, where one $18 package contains at least 10 hankies and gives you quite a bit of silk at a much better price than if you just buy the fiber itself. These were GORGEOUS and Kay and I both are planning on trying our hand at spinning that lovely silk. Maybe we can make a little purse or something out of it. The one thing Cindy warned us about is that silk is rather inflexible fiber, so one wouldn't want to knit something like a sweater out of pure silk. But using a blend of silk with wool would work well. Also, some Art Yarns are spun with chunks of silk thrown in.

So now you see why my head is exploding with knowledge. For you Yarnies out there (nonspinners that is), I hope you weren't too bored with my in-depth coverage of this class, but I want to save the info on here to refer back to later.

Recommending Reading:
The Essentials of Hand Spinning by Mabel Ross, excellent explanation of hand carding. Ross was like the Elizabeth Zimmermann of spinning and was the mentor for our spinning instructor.

The Alden Amos Big Book of Handspinning

Friday, November 28, 2008

A Whole Lot of Embellishing Going On

I am still in the process of making Laura's Chocolate Truffle Socks, which is a great design, and are coming along, but I've felt scattered and having my Knitter's Attention Deficit Disorder.

What has been drawing my attention is my fascination with embellishing my knitted items with embroidery. I mentioned this earlier, a couple of posts ago, but the fascination continues!

I made a pair of Cupcake Fingerless Mitts by Karen Neal (works at The Studio). She designed the mitts in both adult and children's sizes. They are called "Cupcake" mitts because you knit the mitts up plain, like a cake, and then you decorate the "cake" with yarn "icing" (embroidery). For this pair, I embroidered a paisley design on each mitt. I LOVE paisley. The knitting part is fast and easy - the embroidering took a bit longer, but very enjoyable and helped me renew an old forgotten skill.

This partiular pair is a gift to my Mom. I think I'll also make a pair for myself and predict they will go faster. It's hard to see in the photo, but the little tiny circle of silver on them are two tiny word plates, the left glove ways "wish" and the right says "believe." I bought those little word plates at Michaels. Yarn used is Nashua's "Julia." I love that yarn, the colors are great, and the yarn has a bit of mohair in it to add just a slight halo.

I had fun making these . . . and now I'm at work on yet ANOTHER embellishing project that I'll be showing you very shortly.

People must be doing a lot of crafting (more than in usual Christmas times) BECAUSE, while the regular shopping malls and stores in my area have not been very crowded, the craft stores like Michaels and Hobby Lobby, not to mention the local yarn stores, have seemed EXTREMELY busy. More so than usual Christas times that I've noticed. I think with the weak economy, people must be focusing less on buying expensive gifts and more on making meaningful, more personal gifts.

My goal is to do more charity knitting in 2009. I know, I said that last year, but this year, I really mean it. I'm going to try to do one charity project per month. Even if it's just a plain hat or scarf, doing a little bit of embroidery on it, especially for kids, would make it more unique, don't you think?

Retreat Plans in the Making

One thing I've always tried to do is to plan things in advance that will bring future happiness. It's a way of investing in yourself, and it pays off BIG in terms of life satisfaction.

Two years ago, I attended The Studio's Winter Retreat at the historic Elms Hotel and thoroughly enjoyed it. My Mom, Laura and Carol all went along. I skipped last year, because of a personal budget crunch. This year, I just decided "I'm going!" and I am indeed making plans now. Registration complete.

The retreat will, once again, be held the last week of January. I don't know which is more thrilling, anticipating it for the next two months, or actually going! I thoroughly savor pleasant experiences - and this one will indeed be one to cherish.

The Studio really spoils and pampers their customers. I must say, it is and remains my favorite yarn store because they treat customers like gold. They flat out know what we like! What better gift than totally immersing yourself in a 120 year old resort hotel and doing nothing but eating (delicious food), knitting, talking, gabbing with your friends in front of a comfy fire in a luxurious lobby? Or getting spa treatments? Or doing early morning yoga? All of this is part of the package. It's a 2 night sleepover with your knitting buds. There is also a Studio Market and several classes to choose from. And it's affordable and FUN.

Now who all is joining me? Huh? Don't miss out. You can go to this link and read more about it. Be sure and let me know if you are attending.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thankful for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is always my favorite holiday of the year. I love the food, the family and friends joining together, the pure gratitude and sense of appreciation it inspires and renews within me. And I love having 2 extra days off to enjoy the biggest luxury of all - time spent with loved ones without obligation, in a relaxed fashion. There's no gift giving or "musts" involved at all - it's simply time spent with those you love most. There's even time for a post-holiday meal nap if you feel like it.

Unlike most Thanksgivings of the past, we won't be going to my grandmother's small apartment to celebrate Thanksgiving. She's in a nursing home now and we just finished the final steps of dismanting her apartment last weekend. Instead, we'll be having a small (very small) Thanksgiving celebration here at home this year with just myself, Bob, Emily and Kegan. I'll be cooking and taking a plate to my grandmother at the nursing home. So our Thanksgiving will be quiet and simple.

Have a lovely, peaceful day and I'm grateful to each of you who have touched my life, either in "real life" or through this blog. Thank you for reading throughout the year.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Baskets Galore

It's been a crazy week, trying to get my body back in the right time zone, getting back to work, catching up on errands and playing post-vacation catch-up. But I decided to take a break from the everyday routine by visiting my knitting group today. That was really fun seeing everybody and spending a couple of hours chatting and knitting.

While I was there at Borders, I stopped in to visit Michael's craft store - it was SWAMPED today with busy Christmas shoppers. While there, I noticed that they had 40% off on all wicker baskets. And guess what? I've been really wanting to buy wicker baskets. Not only do I love them, but it makes selecting yarn for projects much easier and more decorative when you leave your knitting sitting out in the living room or by your bed, etc. So I bought several.

I've been in a real mood to embellish the knitted items I make with embroidery. I've always LOVED embroidery. As a teenager, my favorite pair of jeans was a pair that I had embroidered slogans and designs all over and wore until they were threadbare. I really wish I'd kept that darn pair of jeans instead of getting rid of them when the knees wore out.

But I've been listening to my favorite podcast, Stitch-It, and Meghan, the podcast host, has been talking all about her friend and SOARS roommate, Cosy, who wrote Knit One, Embellish Too by Cosette Cornelius-Bates. It focuses on knitting and embroidering hats, mittens and scarves. She has some GREAT ideas on how to make really cute, small projects "pop" with the right little designs and embellishments. I'm getting a real kick out of experimenting with Karen Neal's Cupcake Fingerless gloves and adding my stitching over the knitting. The class I took on it last Sunday was really fun and it got me enthused about embroidering EVERYTHING. Well, not everything, but you get the idea. Yeah.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

It's So Good to Be Home

That old expression, "There's no place like home" has special meaning for me this morning. We've been on vacation in Los Angeles and San Diego for a week and just returned late last night. It was a wonderfully relaxing week and was just the vacation we needed as a family. We went from temps in the high 80's out in Southern California and plunged back to the cold wintry weather of KC, but I couldn't be happier to be back.

We were visiting relatives in both cities - some cousins in LA and a niece and her young daughter in San Diego. We had a simply fabulous time. We were constantly on the go, and ate out most of the time, so I've gained even more weight than I started with, but I'll just have to work on it - otherwise I'll have to go on a full-blown shopping spree at Lane Bryant's and I'd rather not do that.

Anyway, back to the trip - I knit a little bit, but surprisingly, not as much as you'd think, instead I've been reading a fascinating novel called "Middlesex." The plot and main character sounds bizarre from reading the description on Amazon, but it really is an absorbing read.

I did knit one pair of Karen's Cupcake Fingerless Gloves and I'm going to take an embroidery refresher from her this afternoon over at The Studio to do some embellishments on these gloves. I think they're really cute and will post a photo later today or tomorrow, after I've unpacked and done some catching up with errands here on the homefront. But if you're looking for some quick holiday gifts, these gloves would be a good choice because they knit up fast and easy. She has a pattern for both adult and children's sizes.

Believe it or not, while gone, I did not visit a single yarn shop. I had sort of planned on it, but knowing that there's more than enough yarn at home, and our suitcases were already bursting, it curbed my yarn cravings. Stopping at yarn shops just seemed like a waste of precious time, especially when we were trying to do some many fun activities all in one trip.

Some of the highlights were: eating at all the best deli's in LA, watching the movie THE CHANGELING at a theatre in Burbank, shopping with my daughter in several of the little shops on Melrose, going in a charming little vintage shop called Hidden Treasures, going to San Diego's Sea World, visiting the spooky Queen Mary ship, idling around Balboa Park, spending time with Jamie and Katelyn at their ranch and seeing her realize her dream of living on a horse ranch. Spending time on the beach - it was cold, but fun to walk along LaJolla's beach front and get our feet wet in the sand/incoming tide.

The people in California were so nice to us! We met so many friendly and hospitable people. Of course, the driving out there is crazy to me, but luckily Bob drove, and that's the one time I knit, to keep my hands busy and my eyes off the road because it was nerve wracking. But other than that, yeah, the people were extremely nice and helpful, even though we were typical tourists, they welcomed us and it was a blast to be there.

Unfortunately, as we drove back up to LA and spent the night in a hotel in the San Fernando Valley, we woke up with the smell of smoke and it was "snowing" the ash from the huge fires that are going on out there. The hotel where we were staying was 20 miles away from the fire, but they lost power for a while and had been incoming residents who were fleeing their homes. We talked to a few of them as we were checking out and heading to the airport on Saturday morning. This fire is really tragic and sad for those suffering through it. It seems trite to say, "my prayers are with them" but it's really true.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Yes We Can! (And Did)

After a late night of celebration last night, I can say, "Yes We Can!" As a nation, we did it.

My Mom arrived at the polls at 5:30 A.M. to vote, and so did we - the line was so long that I had to turn around, leave the poll, go to work and then come back later in the day to finally cast my vote at around 4:00 p.m. but it was SO worth it. Emily's boyfriend voted for the first time ever, and was very excited about it.

This makes me feel hopeful, which I haven't felt in way too long. What really excites me about this new President-elect is that he doesn't have the idea that he'll go it alone - I really believe he WILL be a uniter in every sense of the word, and that he'll use his network of supporters to get to work and have all of us contributing. When he said that he will be everyone's President, even those who didn't vote for him, and that he'll listen ESPECIALLY to those with whom he disagrees, that is such a turnaround from the present administration that it felt like a breath of fresh air had been brought into the White House. The fact that the vote isn't our only contribution - but is only the beginning of the work we have to do is exciting. Involving the American people in the work is a great way to get us all involved and bring us together on a common goal - at least that's what I think through my rose-colored glasses this morning.

As far as results go, in my own state of Missouri, we have a sqeaker - it was 49% to 49% but McCain had about 6,000 extra popular votes - so admittedly, he narrowly took our state.

Now I am determined to be a gracious winner and to be respectful of those I know who are disappointed this morning. I remember how sore I felt "the day after" every time we've lost in the past.

I am also going to start thinking about how I can help in some way - get involved in my community to volunteer or do something productive so it doesn't just stop with the vote.

Friday, October 31, 2008

What's Your Personal Year Number?

First, I must display the wonderful birthday package my friend Elysbeth sent to me. It includes "It Itches," the wonderful new book of knitting cartoons by Franklin Habit. Also some fiber to spin, and charming stitch marker. She is such a sweetie to think of me, and it warmed my heart a lot.

Because I believe in Numerology, each year, usually right around my birthday, I select my word for the upcoming year to correspond to my personal year in Numerology. My "year" doesn't run from the traditional January - December but from fall to fall, because in late fall, I start transitioning to the new year and reflecting on what I need to do to make the next calendar year better.

I've experienced a lot of loss this Fall, so I can already see the "2" year has begun. There have been transitions going on, and a lot of sadness and turmoil in my family and extended family. Thank God I discovered Spinning this summer, right before all the turmoil, because that has given me a way to positively deal with my frustrations and emotions.

Numerologically, I will be entering into a "2" personal year in early November, 2008 - it's commonly a year of letting go and changes that you have little control over - not a comfortable year for a control freak like myself. According to, "A personal year 2 is a wait and see time; a year when you will find yourself in the background and very much in a stage of development. This is not a time to force the issue and try to move forward. It is a time for cooperation and building relationships that will benefit you in the future; a year for accumulating and collecting. Aggressiveness will cause problems now. You must be prepared for delays, detours, stoppages and you must be patient."

Therefore, this year, I decided to create a theme word that will match and help me stay in flow with my personal year. This year I chose "Release" as my word - it matches the frame of mind I need to be in to make the most of this year of "going with the flow." With anything that has disturbed me too much this fall, I've found that word rising to the surface of my mind, making me a bit calmer and accepting. That word is already helping me to gain a perspective that is both keeping me sane and helping me grow deeper as a person. I'm determined not to let these changes make me bitter or resentful. Somehow, the events are being brought to me for a reason.

If you wish to figure out your very own personal year. You can go to that website and learn more about it. What you do is add your birth month + day + the year of your next BD. Say you were born on April 24th - then your personal year runs from April to late April. You would add 4 (April is the 4th month) + 2 + 4 (day of birth) + 2 + 0 + 0+ 9 (year 2009) for the upcoming year - and you would get a total of 29/3 - it would be a "3" year. If you have a fall or winter birthday, like me, you would go with 2008 because your "YEAR" actually starts at the end of the calendar year. So if you have a December 4th birthday, you'd add 12+4+2+0+0+8 = 24/6 - a "6" personal year. You always reduce the numbers down to a single digit except for 11 and 22, which are master numbers.

Book Recommendations: If you'd like to learn more about Numerology, I would recommend these books: Numerology and the Divine Triangle by Dusty Bunker; also Numerology, the Complete Guide (Goodwin).

Monday, October 27, 2008

Finding My Circadian Rhythm Again

For the past couple of months, I've been working an early shift at work, and although I thought it would be wonderful getting off in the late afternoon, it's been suprisingly NOT a good thing. I find myself exhausted and just coming home to take a nap. I haven't even gotten any daily exercise in. It feels like I'm frantic and running all the time. It's apparently NOT compatible with my body rhythm.

Late last week, I found out that I've received a promotion at work into a department that will require more responsibility and eventually will require some federal certification that I don't have right now. And I have been moved back to my OLD schedule, which involves coming in later and leaving later, but hopefully will give me more time to breathe, think and function better. It's amazing how much the change of such a small thing can make such a big difference in my mindset. I already feel relief - whew. I'm having a slow relaxing Monday morning right now, drinking my coffee, puttering, and I've already walked 30 minutes on my treadmill. Nice change of pace.

We had a super busy weekend - on Saturday, we moved a desk to my Mother's house, and it's a beautiful desk that she'll really love. On Sunday, we went to the Psychic Fair, which is ALWAYS a blast. I had only one reading done, with a guy who interprets animal totems. I'm still mulling over what he said to me, it was one of those readings where it resonated somewhat, but I'm going to have to think it over to fully determine what it means for me - he sent me home with the three animal totem cards I picked from the deck and I'm supposed to meditate on those. Okay . . . will do.

Emiy had two readings, one only "so-so" and one really powerful. I used to hesitate to bring her to these events. but she really enjoys them and gets a lot out of them, without taking it all TOO seriously.

Bob had a nice numerology reading, and helped the numerologist trouble-shoot her computer problems. Ha! Seriously. He's a computer guru.

And lastly, though I haven't had much time for knitting lately, I DID get a chance to work a bit more on my Chocolate Truffle Socks designed by my friend, Laura
. Yarn is "Chocolate Truffle" created by Dome Hill Sock Yarn. She has created a really FUN pattern, and I liked the cuff part with the sparkly beads so much that I decided to keep going, making the cuff taller so that I could maximize the colorful candy effect. It's been the first time I've worked beads into my knitting, and guess what? It's really not hard at all. Have a good week everyone - and may we all put some laughter, fun and enjoyment into our days - regardless of what shift we're on, okay?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Have You Discovered Smartflix?

Quick blog entry here, because I need to get ready for work. But have you discovered Smartflix? It's a wonderful website that rents out DVDs and Videos on everything from home remodeling, computer, electronic, metalworking and gobs of other practical topics, but unlike Netflix, Smartflix specializes in titles for a variety of practical skills, and has a HUGE craft section.

Since my current obsession is spinning, I am going to start by renting "Fiber Preparation and Multicolor Blending Techniques" by Deb Mentz. The descriptions says, "This video includes many wonderful ways to prepare fiber for spinning, using both drum carder and combs. The focus is on how to use fibers that have already been dyed to create multicolored yarns. It starts with drum carding "101" - how to effectively choose and use a drum carder. Then it's on to blending colors to create new colors. You'll learn how to get predictable results, how to blend luxury fibers, & how to create multicolored drum carded batts so the colors stay clear and bright. Multicolored yarns can also be created using combs. By using already combed and dyed solid wool top, the multi-colors will be created by using a multistep process of arrangement of colors on wide combs or hackles. Designing plied yarns with color effects in mind concludes this video workshop.

The Way It (Smartflix) Works: You order a video or DVD and if it arrives at your house on say a Wednesday, you have until the follow Wednesday - exactly one week, to watch it. Then you simply return it. I guess if you're late, they'll probably charge a late fee, I'm not sure of that yet, because this is the first time I'm doing it, but I don't intend to be late.

Anyway, this rental service has programs on knitting, spinning, weaving, and a whole wide range of topics of interest to crafters, not to mention tons of other fields. It's exciting to find such a service since craft videos and DVDs are so expensive. I'd rather watch and return them. Nifty idea!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Harlot, Harlot, Who's Got the Harlot?

It's been a wild, crazy week so I haven't had time to blog about the Yarn Harlot visit until now (the event was held on Monday, Ocotber 13th). The first photo shows a picture of our gang together.

We were in the front row, on the side of the auditorium. In the photo, to the left is my Mom, then myself, then Laura, Dorothy and Kay to the right. Unfortunately, the digital camera I have doesn't take good long shots, so the picture of the Harlot herself is dark and miniscule. In fact, most of the photos I took turned out badly. Don't know what was up with my camera.

My opinion of the Harlot before attending the event was "eh, she's okay, nothing special." My opinion after the event: "Super ehhhhh, nothing AT ALL special."

While I used to read her blog fairly regularly and enjoy whenever she talks about knitting, after all she IS a really talented and fast knitter and I would have greatly enjoyed hearing more about it. I have heard that in talks in the past, she knit, talked about her knitting more - but she didn't at this performance. It was all about HER and her book career. I frankly don't care about that - and the self-promo gets old very fast.

But fortunately, once the book signing portion of the event began, and over 200 knitters lined up patiently to get their books signed, my seat at the front and side allowed me to have a bird's eye view of all the talented knitters who came to see her. To me, THOSE were the real stars, the best and most DEVOTED knitters in Kansas City coming together in one place to show off their sweaters, shawls, socks etc. While waiting with them in line (not to get a book signed myself, I didn't care a thing about that). Instead, I stood up and talked to many of them, admiring their projects and talking about knitting itself, which was the REAL reason I was there.

So it was a wonderful evening, and I am glad I went.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Learning Some More - Yarn Design Class

I should know, from past experience, that the one thing which will make me feel rejuvenated is learning something new. Being a lifelong reader and avid student, I LOVE taking classes in all kinds of things, but who can beat a class on SPINNING just when I needed a lift?

I took my wheel, which I've now named "Fernie" after Grammy Ferne, who gave her to me.

The class? "Yarn Design," a 4 hour session at Yarn Barn. Boy was that ever a fast-paced wonderful class. We learned so many things compressed into 4 short hours. First we learned wheel mechanics, figuring out things like the whorl ratio of our wheels. Fernie's whorl ratio is 7:1.

We practiced spinning some yarn, then figured out the Wraps Per Inch, the Twists Per Inch and the Grist of our yarn using a Yarn Balance. That was fiber mechanics and it was really interesting.

Then we learned fiber preparation and blending, using combs and then a drum carder. We went upstairs to the yarn shop, picked out yarn we wanted to recreate, then practiced making a desired yarn. We practiced better coordination of our treadling with the type of draw that would create the right texture and thickness of yarn.

The whole thing was just such a blast!

Finally, I made this beautiful self-designed yarn. It doesn't look nearly as pretty in this picture as it goes in person. It contains brown merino, green mohair, purples and some gold colored silk. My partner, Janeice and I, were really proud of the batting we carded. Then we spun and plied it and made this cute little mini skein.

The book our teacher recommends is:

Diane Varney's SPINNING DESIGNER YARNS. She also likes an older book called "Essentials of Yarn Design" by Mabel Ross.

The biggest thing I learned today is that I don't have to just spin up whatever thickness and texture of yarn that comes out. With practice, I can also design yarn, creating a specific type of fiber and can prepare, spin, and ply the fiber to create the yarn of my heart's desire.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A New Look At an Old Book

The Mason Dixon Knitting book is rising to the top of my attention lately. Why? After all, it's been out several years, and I've made several projects from it, including the Peaches and Cream dishrag, the cute little baby kimono and from their website, the Buttonhole Bag. It's just a FANASTIC book. Honestly, I wasn't that impressed when it first came out. It has a rather lackluster cover. It mainly features projects for the home, more so than sweaters or garments.

For someone like me, who has gauge "issues," it's delightful not to have to worry about whether it will fit or not. A blanket, a dishrag, a linen towel, an absorbant bath mat, doesn't have to fit. Most of the projects are fun, easy and very satisfying. It astonishes me, frankly, that I haven't made even MORE projects from this book, and I intend to remedy that. (You can now buy the Mason Dixon book on sale from Knitpicks for a bargain at $17.95).

What is bringing all this to mind is that the NEW Mason Dixon book, Knitting Outside the Lines, is finally available. I've been looking forward to this book release for a while. Now that this second book is out, I've thumbed through it at the bookstore, and frankly, keep scratching my head thinking, "Ehhhhh, not so great." Mainly sweaters and garments and it doesn't look too impressive - few projects immediately grab me.

But then I remember that I wasn't too impressed with the first book at first either. So I went ahead and ordered Book 2 as my last "must buy" book from Crafter's Choice.

The MD books remind me of that "nice guy" you may have gone out with, not been overly wowed by at first glance, but then slowly fell in love with as time went on. For me, the MD book endures, and I suspect that might be true of the second, as well. Only time will tell. But now I'm starting to look forward to a long, slow courtship with Book 2.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Just Can't Get No . . . Knitting Satisfaction

Here lately my knitting has been kind of frustrating again. While I finished the huge Shetland Triangle shawl, it didn't turn out as intended and didn't have the same sense of "Ah" after completing it. Don't know why, but it just wasn't fulfilling.

And now I started the Pi Topper Chemo Cap for charity knitting using the Berocco Love It yarn, and Number One, I don't Love the "Love It" I think I hate it. It reminds me of that splitty yarn Nashua Cilantro that I disliked intensely. It's splitty and just feels like I'm knitting with stretchy cord rather than yarn. It wants to come unraveled and when you cut the yarn, it un-twines in a scary way.

Plus, while I love this pattern's design, it started off way too large at first. I had to rip out over half the hat and start over because even on size 6 needles, it was way too large. I knit most of the hat before realizing that. Damn! Then I switched down to size 5 and finally down to a 2 (too small), up again to a 3 - it was too large and just doesn't fit right. I don't know what's wrong with it - but I've spent over a week on it and am fed up. May try again with another pattern/different yarn. But for now, I'm setting it aside in total disgust.

What was supposed to be a quick charity project for Roberta turned into a week-long exercise of frustration.

Sometimes I feel amazingly inept as a knitter.


So, instead of knitting, I'm going to practice some of that self-care I spoke about yesterday. Taking 10 minutes to spin might be fun and relaxing.

Later note: even the spinning isn't going well --- argghh!!!!! I am so frustrated and unhappy right now. I am emotionally eating out of frustration and that isn't helping either. My Grandmother is in the hospital again and everything is haywire and going wrong right now. I need to get on a different track.

Calgon, take me away.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

The Importance of Self-Care

My dear friend, Elysbeth has selected her word for the year - since the Jewish New Year started the other day, she has selected "Nurturance" as her word to carry her through the coming year.

As everyone knows, my blog is calling "Hanging By a Thin Thread" for a damned good reason. Self-nurturing is essential whenever you are stressed - and who in the world isn't these days?

Julia Cameron wrote "The Artist Way" about 15 years ago and it is a goldmine of ideas for self-care and developing one's creativity. One of her best suggestions drawn from this book is the "Artist Date."

An Artist Date is a time you set aside each week to spend with yourself doing something childlike, playful, creative or just downright FUN. It's preferably spent alone, but you can also include a partner or friend.

Here are some of my favorite Artist Dates I've experienced:

**Visited the Nelson Art Gallery in Kansas City and gone inside the Budhist Temple exhibit for a wonderfully refreshing meditation session on the stone bench inside. Luckily, it was a slow day at the museum so no one disturbed me.

**Walking in a wooded area near my house on a brisk Autumn day and collecting some beautiful leaves. I later came home and pressed them into waxed paper using an iron.

**Sitting outside on my back porch with a hot cup of coffee and watching the sun rise.

**The classic but highly effective stress reliever: Taking a long relaxing warm bubble bath while wearing a scented facial mask to tighten my pores.

**Going camping in an old fashioned tent with my husband and daughter - building our own fire and cooking outside.

**Going to the circus.

**Visiting the Unity rose garden or the Labyrinth and enjoying a walking meditation.

**Making bread from scratch. This is an all-day undertaking, and my favorite bread to make is Challah (Jewish) for Shabbat. I also enjoy making Poppy Seed cookies, an old recipe Bob's Aunt Renee passed down to me.

**Cooking some delicious soup in the crock pot and eating it in front of the fire.

**Sitting at my piano - when everyone is gone from the house, and practicing my very BAD piano playing with the elementary music books I still have squirreled away in the piano bench.

**Going to a luxurious hotel lobby, even if I'm not really staying there and sitting in one of their comfy chairs knitting or reading. (No one ever questions whether I'm a guest or not).

**Setting up my spinning wheel on a cool day and spinning to my heart's content while watching Elisabeth Zimmerman videos.

**Select one of your favorite time periods and immerse yourself in that time period. For me, listening to 1920's music from a collection I bought and pretending I'm a flapper. My friend, Lynn H. (ColorJoy) has a couple of these CDs you can find here that she and her huband have made, they are really fun to listen to, especially while doing folding laundry or doing some otherwise mundane task.

I also love re-watching old movies set during that time period such as Paper Moon. There is going to be a new movie out shortly set during that period calling Changeling. But pick YOUR favorite time period and experience it through your favorite clothing, jewelry, music, movies. What fun!

Now - what could YOU do to nurture yourself this week? What are Artist Dates you've done or would like to try?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

An Old Favorite Soon to be Revisited

Late last year, I knit this shawl, the Rose Heart Shawl, for my grandmother's Christmas gift. My mother bought her a gorgeous shawl pin to go with it. She absolutely LOVED both the shawl and the pin.

Unfortunately, my Grandmother has been moved to a Care Center this month. During the move from her apartment to the Care Center, the shawl was lost. I don't think it's going to be found.

Therefore, I promised to make her another to replace it. She wants the exact same pattern. Exact same yarn (Malabrigo). Exact same color.

What can I say? Yes! I will do it. I hope she likes the second attempt as much as the first. It may take me several weeks to get this done, but I'll do my very best. I've already ordered the yarn.

I usually don't like to ever knit the same project twice, and certainly not in the same identical yarn. But knowing how very much she adores this shawl, I realized that it will be a pleasure revisiting this shawl because when has anyone ever treasured my knitting so much as Grammy? That kind of total appreciation is rare and she means more to me than all the yarn in the world.

Love you Grammy. Now get to feeling better so you can get back to your computer, you hear?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Presenting Nightwatch Shawl

There's a song that sings something about wishing for "Someone to Watch Over Me." Over the last 8 weeks, I've been trying to create a Shetland Triangle Shawl that is large enough to envelope and comfort my friend Margo and make her feel cherished while she continues to mourn for the loss of her oldest son.

I've knit on this thing all summer. Changed shawls once when I didn't like the way the first effort was turning out. And now, after finishing it yesterday and blocking it out tonight, I realize that a shawl really CAN be too large. I did 12 repeats on size 7 needles, which is 4 more repeats than the pattern calls for. But guess what? It's H-U-G-E. In fact, before blocking, it was 63" wingspan and AFTER blocking, it is a 110" wingspan. Before blocking, the spine was 31" long, after blocking, it is 40".

I hope it's not literally too large for her to even use. Argghh!!! Once it dries, I'll reassess the situation. Right now, I'm pretty irritated with myself for not stopping at least 2-3 repeats earlier.