New Year: Be Happy

Oh my, I have neglected this blog like nobodies business. I suppose I could trot out the usual excuses: it’s been a busy fall; I’ve been working through changes on the home front, etc., etc. However, that would belie the fact that I just haven’t felt the urge to share.

Happily, I’ve made it through the holidays and it’s a fresh new year. A year that I’m pledging to make a good one. I’m not normally a New Year’s Resolution type. I never keep them, and know almost no one who actually does – except for my sister, who shocked me in December when I found out she was still keeping hers. I find it so impressive I actually tell other people she’s managed to do this when others mention no one ever keeps resolutions. I think she’s the first person I know who’s kept a specific resolution all year. Good for you!! – For me, this year is going to be a different story. I’ve made a seemingly simple, and oft admonished, vague resolution: this year, I’m going to try to do anything and everything (within bounds of reason and social acceptance) that makes me happy. This is the year I don’t worry about what others think, that I don’t put things off, that I grab the bull by the horns and do those things that I’ve always wanted to do because they’ll bring a smile to my face. It’s still early days, but so far so good.

These are a few of the things that I’m doing so far that tickle me pink:

1. Riding Lessons at the Riding Academy

I suppose it’s a cliche, but I have always wanted to ride. I’ve even gone so far as to work at a horse stable, but not actually ride. That’s right, I voluntarily chose a job where I picked up horse crap just so I could be near them. Now that I can actually afford the sport, I’ve signed up for adult intro lessons and am loving it! So far it’s covered much of what I had already picked up (in between shovelfuls), but it’s always good to confirm you’re on the right track. And since it’s only week one, there I’m guaranteed to learn much more.

2. Getting Fit for Me

Since last May I’ve been regularly attending Body Buster Fitness -a bootcamp fitness class that’s just awesome – 3x week, and I’ve really started to notice a change. Early on the benefits were apparent: I had more energy. I was considerably less grumpy, and I could sleep like a baby. But now, my hard work seems to be paying off visually: I feel stronger, slimmer, and dare I say, I see a tiny bit of a tricep poking through. I can safely say I’m at the point in my fitness where I want to continue living a healthy lifestyle because it makes me a happier person, not because I want to change how I look. I find making healthier choices  (for the most part) and I’m reaping the benefits. That’s an important moment in a lifestyle change, and I hope to keep doing it.

3. Barreworks

Going along with my desire to stay fit, I’m going to shake up my regular workouts, just for a bit of variety. Enter Barreworks: a spin on the total body workout, BarreWorks incorporates the ballet bar. I have my first class tonight. We’ll see how it goes.

Aside from these kind of big commitments to being happy, I’m going to try to find happiness in the little things. I’ll be tweeting my simple pleasures with #behappy hashtag. Follow along or share your own happy moments. Wishing you all the best in the new year. Make it a happy one.

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Grinding to a Halt

Last weekend I went to the Knitter’s Fair in KW and it was awesome, in every sense of the word. There was so much yarn-y goodness it was daunting and a bit overwhelming. At first I didn’t think I’d be able to actually commit to a purchase there were so many options (don’t’ worry, I got over that fear).

I took my advice and made (almost) a complete round of the booths before laying down cash. (Yup, I was good and left the plastic at home. ) I tried spend on  yarns or other items that I don’t normally have access to, or yarns that I’ve been dying to try.

Here’s my yarn haul.

String Theory Caper Sock Yarn
Colour: Labradorite
Yarn: Merino 80% Cashmere 10% Nylon 10% (so soft!!)

Skein Sock Yarn
Colour: Sea Salt
Yarn: Merino 85% Nylon 15%

madelinetosh light
Colour: Opaline
Yarn: merino 100% single ply

Now that I have all these new treats, I have ever more project ideas floating around. And not just patterns that I think would maybe be nice to knit, but patterns that I have everything to cast on right now!

Turnalar Socks which I’ll use Cascade Heritage Silk in Italian Plum and Malabrigo Sock in Lettuce for.

Thanks mom….that purple/green colour combination stuck with me. 

Marin, which to be fair, was already in my queue, but now I have the yarn to do it. Methinks madeline tosh light is just the thing.

However…despite having all these fabulous new yarns to play with and new patterns to try out, I can’t. All knitterly endeavours shall be suspended until I finish this shawl.

It’s my Love on the Edge shawl. I’m hoping to will have it finished for an upcoming event. The shawl is beautiful, the yarn is delightful, but the project in general is starting to become the bane of my existence. Nothing like a firm deadline to take the fun out of knitting.

This bag now goes with me everywhere. I’ve been trying to squeeze in a few rows whenever I get the chance. Thankfully, this is paying off and I’m almost done the body. Almost.

Fingers crossed the border isn’t too slow.

KW Knitter’s Fair

It’s on.



Tomorrow is the Kitchener Waterloo Knitter’s Fair.

It’s the perfect chance to see many Canadian knitting vendors all in one spot. It’s my first time attending any sort of fibre festival and I’m so excited. And a little bit nervous. I know that I’m going to be overwhelmed with fibre-y goodness. To keep my emotions (and spending) in check I’ve tried to approach it practically.

Tips for a Successful Fibre Festival

  • Arrive early. Parking is a premium and hiking to the venue is not the best use of yarn shopping time
  • Do a complete tour before making any big purchases. You never know who’s got the best deals.
  • Bring cash. Preferably only as much as you want can afford to spend and leave the credit card at home. You’ll appreciate it later. Yarn fumes can have strange effects on your will power.
  • Bring water/snacks. I tend to get a bit crabby if I don’t have enough of either.
  • Make a list. Sure, you have all kinds of project ideas and must have yarns, but the moment you step across that threshold it’s likely your mind will go blank.

And so, my own list of items to keep an eye out for:

  • Hiya Hiya interchangeable needles: 3mm
  • Solid sock yarn in vibrant colours, not necessarily full skeins.
  • Signature needles (mostly to ogle, not to purchase).
  • Complimentary solid and variegated fingering yarn. 750 yds/840 yds (It’s not too late to start Malice).
  • MCN solid, maybe grey, for Marin

Randomly

A collection of knitterly things that I want to do (relatively soon).

1. Take better pictures of my finished socks, preferably on sock blockers.

2. Double knit a pair of socks i.e. two at a time, one inside the other. It’s a little bit of knitting magic! This Knitty article has a great explanation of the process.

3. Knit My Heaven shawl.

4. Attend a fibre festival. (Check! I’ll be heading to the Kitchener-Waterloo Knitter’s Fair this weekend).

5. Spin my own yarn. Now that the weather should be cooling down, I’ll be more inclined to pick up some fibre. Clammy hands don’t lend well to spinning.

6. Try Cat Borhdi’s Sweet Tomato Heel

Commuting in Style

Since starting the commute to work, I noticed that my purse had very little real-estate for knitting projects once I’d packed in my wallet, phone and a mini-umbrella (because you just never know). As a result, I rarely took any subway knitting. There just wasn’t room. That was fun for a while, but I soon found myself wanting something to occupy my hands during my commute. Knitting-bag hunting soon commenced.

I’ve had my eye on Jordana Paige‘s L.J.Kaelms bag for a while now. It’s the perfect combination of style and functionality; there’s room for your work/day-to-day items, and -most importantly- room for your knitting projects. Despite thinking it to be the perfect fit, I hesitated ordering it online for a few reasons.

1) Colour. The two colours offered, red and green, didn’t really excite me. They’re not exactly a ‘neutral’ that will go with anything. Not only that,  images online showed the colours slightly differently; different enough that I wasn’t exactly sure of their shade. I was leaning toward the red, but perhaps not if it was too bright.

2) Size. While the website does a fairly good job of showing the bag’s scale, it’s just not the same as slinging it over your own shoulder to see if the fit is right.

I himmed and hawwed, fairly certain this was what I needed wanted, but I just couldn’t commit. (Exorbitant shipping costs put the brakes on my impulse purchase pretty fast).

To my delight, one of the LYS carried the bags. However, they had just placed an order and wouldn’t be in for a few weeks.  After much anticipation, the bags finally arrived today. I scooted over after work to check them out. (By this time I had pretty much made up my mind that my next knitting project would be travelling with me in a shiny new red bag).

The bag is exactly what I hoped for. The colour is more muted than the website images, and – possibly the best part- it’s extremely light! The downside of having a large tote is it quickly gets heavy from all the stuff you can load in there. I’m hoping that by at least starting off very light, it won’t get heavy quite as fast (I said hoping…).

The bag is divided into two sections divided by a zippered pocket in the middle and is  tall enough to fit a magazine or pattern.  One section has two pouches on the side for holding a ball of yarn, complete with eyelets about them to keep the yarn in place while you’re knitting. There are also pockets for DPNs and a removable little pouch.

The other section is all business; there is are card holders, a zippered pocket and a handy snap for holding your keys. (We’ve all searched frantically at the bottom of our purses for our keys; it’s usually raining out when this takes place).  Of course, you could always use this side for more knitting!

As for the middle section, I can’t speak from experience, but I hear it fits an iPad quite nicely.

 

Starstruck

Last week I had an experience I imagine other people have when they see a famous [insert profession of choice here].  I  saw the Yarn Harlot  give a talk at the Downtown Knitters Guild in Toronto, and I was utterly starstruck! I even got a chance to kinnear her!

It’s a word, check it out.

Truthfully, I almost didn’t go to the talk. I was worried that seeing her in person would destroy the characterization of her I’d created. I was worried I would discover she had some strange voice, or some other weird quirk that I would never be able to detach from my idea of her. In short, I worried that seeing the real her wouldn’t live up to the characterization I had developed from religiously reading her blog, books and anything else she’s produced.

Not going would have been a huge mistake. She turned out to be even better than I expected. She was more down-to-earth than I could have imagined. And my god, FUNNY! Now as a regular reader, I know she’s funny, that’s part of the reason I like her so much. I just didn’t expect her to be that funny all the time. It was like watching a knitting themed stand-up show. I was in stitches (pardon the pun) throughout her talk.

The talk was about how knitting affects the brain. At first it seemed like it was just going to be a rehashing of an essay from her latest book. Nope, it was just the set up for a detailed, well researched and insightful talk that got into the nitty-gritty of brain function (water-down for us non-neurosurgeon types).

Some of my favourite topics were her discussion of trauma and video games. She discussed a Cambridge study about trauma and how repetitive motor activities (aka knitting) can lessen the impact of witnessing a horrific event. The study’s conclusion was that it was “not practical to carry emergency knitting”. If only they knew. She also presented a strong case, based on Tom Chatfield‘s study of video games, that suggested a video game need only be like knitting to be successful. Listed below are the 7 elements necessary for someone to find a video game really, really compelling according to Chatfield.

  1. Must be able to visualize progress
  2. Multiple long and short term aims
  3. Reward for effort
  4. Rapid, frequent, clear feedback
  5. Element of uncertainty (gauge anyone?).
  6. Able to do during windows of enhanced attention. (Whenever, wherever).
  7. Must have engagement with others on some level. (If you had doubts about this one: KALs, Ravelry)
Now doesn’t that sound uncannily like knitting?
Overall the talk was hilarious and outrageously funny. I highly recommend going to see her if you ever get the chance. I left the talk refreshed and feeling good about my knitting habit. It’s strengthening my brain you know!

Finally Traded

I’m so happy to say that the Ultimate Trade between a friend is finally complete and I couldn’t be happier. In a nutshell, I knit her a sweater in exchange for a lap quilt. I was more than thrilled when the final quilt turned out to be a little larger than a mere ‘lap quilt’.

When determining the projects, she picked out the sweater pattern and the yarn colour she wanted and has an idea of what to expect in the final project. I, on the other hand, left the choice all up to her. Having seen the results of her other quilting endeavours, I was such a fan of them that I felt leaving the choice up to her would leave me in good hands.

While she suggested this trade many months ago, we didn’t get down to serious business until the end of the summer. Anyone who’s knit a sweater/cardigan knows that it’s no small feat. It’s not one of those projects that is (at least not when I do it), whipped out in a week or two. I wasn’t worried though. I mean, she had a whole quilt to make! Well you know what they say about assuming… I certainly felt silly once I heard that after only a few days of us getting started she had the squares all cut out. Enter my panic. Crap! I hardly had the garter band of this sweater done.

Thankfully, the cutting out was the quick part of the process (or so I was told). Still, she was finished sewing the quilt together long before I had finished my end of the deal. I still had an ace in the hole though. Finishing a knitting cardigan is relatively easier than a quilt. I just had to sew a few pieces together. She had to send the whole thing away to get quilted! (Spoiler, the quilting is fabulous. If ever the woman who quilted it reads this. I LOVE what you did with it! The thread is wonderful. Once you see the pictures you’ll all see what I’m talking about.)

By time I had packaged up the cardigan and hastily (yes, I apologize for the state the parcel arrives in, I was NOT prepared at the post office!) sent it off, I had word that my parcel was already on the way!

Just a few days before her’s is due to arrive, I received this lovely surprise.
Parcel
(Notice it’s sitting on another fabulous quilt that was made just for me. Don’t worry, it’s not going to be ousted from its spot.)

Unfolding
As I unfold it the anticipation is building. So far so good! I love the blue fabric. Finally I can’t hold myself back any more and I unfurl it across the bed.

Revealed
The more I look at it the more I love it. The lighter blue panels really pop out against the darker blues and black. Black, I can’t say that I would have chosen black! It’s a good thing that I left it up to her.

Details
Here you can see our two favourite fabrics. Her’s: the blue polka-dotted one. Mine: the blue strip just above.

Thread
And possibly my favourite part: the variegated thread used to quilt the entire thing. It ranges through various blues just like the quilt itself. On the black squares it’s just stunning!

Front and Back
I think the swirled quilting really evokes a sense of flowing in the quilt. Perfectly combined with the colour choice!

Quilt

I couldn’t be happier with this trade. The quilt is absolutely beautiful. It also makes me think I should have jazzed up that cardigan just a bit…

I wonder how many other great things I could acquire if I worked off this barter system more often!