Knitting Progress and A Countdown to the Big Race Day

Knitting is a funny thing.  Projects can fly by or drag on.  They can make you feel like a creative genius (“I KNEW those colors would work together!) or a failure as an technician (“Why can’t I get that stitch to work?!). I’ve had a bit of both over the last week.

I’ve been working along on my two KALs (knit-a-longs), which I have mentioned before and I have progress to report.

First up: the Color Affection KAL with the iMake group over on Ravelry.  This KAL is going swimmingly.  Yes, the rows are getting very long and that can make progress feel slow, but I’ve been very much enjoying knitting this project.  My days are very busy and so taking 30-60 minutes at the end of long, full, hectic day to rest on my couch, with a cat on my legs (she loves to sleep on legs that are stretched out onto the ottoman), a mildly entertaining and mostly mindless program on the television, and this project in my hands has been fantastic.  It’s a perfect project for cruising along and getting lost in the garter stitch.

I’ve got 3 short-row repeats left before settling in to finish the final section.  Here’s a look:

(Those paws belong to the aforementioned cat. Her name is Eliza and she may look innocent, but she is a menace around yarn!)

My second KAL, the Holla Back Tank, with the great folks over at Holla Back Knits, led me to a mild knitting breakdown last week.  The lace back isn’t a very complicated lace pattern, but for some reason, I could not get the set-up row to work.  I knitted and frogged, knitted and frogged, knitted and frogged, and on and on until I thought I was going to throw the whole thing off my balcony.  I decided that I needed different needles and made two rushed trips to my local yarn stores, only to discover that both were out of what I needed.  Frustrated and with the other shops closing for the day, I was not feeling too good about this project at that moment.  Fortunately, Mr. Move Eat Create ran out to a third LYS and found my needles for me (Thank you, Twisted for having them in stock) the next day while I was at work.

It still took me a couple of attempts, even with the new needles, but these (Addi Lace Turbos) are working MUCH better.  After setting the project down for a couple of days, I am a bit behind the rest of the group, but am glad to say that I have conquered the set up row and am making progress.  It is knitting up quite well now that we’ve made it through those trying times!  No picture of this one, this week, but I’ll try to post once the lace is further along.

Finally, it has occurred to me that it is now LESS THAN 3 weeks from my first half-marathon.  So close.  I’m both excited and nervous, but I’m very thankful for a couple of reassuring moments in the last week.  I ran 12.1 miles this past Saturday at a nice pace and felt good during the run, so that was a fantastic boost to my confidence.  I also downloaded and listed to an old episode of the ‘No Meat Athlete’ podcast that was all about training for and succeeding at your first half marathon.  I was reassured to hear many tips offered that I have, in fact, been already doing, and I picked up a few more.  No Meat Athlete runs a great, helpful blog and (newly re-started) podcast for anyone who may want to check them out, by the way.

So, in less then three weeks, I expect to have finished my first half-marathon and two completed projects off my needles!  So much to look forward to!

KAL Updates

I’ve been knitting and I am very pleased to say that I believe my KALs have gotten me out of my knitting funk that I mentioned I was in a while back.

I told you all before that I had joined my first KAL – the Holla’ Back Tank by Holla’ Knits.  After a nerve-racking start because my yarn arrived late (and if there’s one thing I hate – it’s being late), I have managed to catch up to the rest of the group!  This week’s goal is to finish the front half of the tank and things are going along quite well so far.  It has been loads of stockinette stitch – so nothing terribly exciting, but shaping has kept it interesting enough and being that this is my first garment (i.e. not accessory), that in and of itself is pretty exciting.  Here’s my progress so far:

So . . . then there’s this thing where I actually joined another KAL, too!  Apparently the one wasn’t enough.  You see, I absolutely adore Martine and her blog and podcast (iMake) and when I learned that she was going to be leading a KAL for the ever-popular Color Affection wrap, I had to get in on it.  I mean, this wrap has been absolutely on everyone’s needles this summer but mine.  So I jumped on the chance to knit it up with a group of other Color Affection late-comers.  I couldn’t find the right yarn in my budget from my LYS, unfortunately, so I ordered my yarn from WEBS and it arrived quite quickly.  After casting on at the start of the weekend, I am through the first block of the main color and will be adding in my first contrasting color the next time I pick up my needles.

I know that some people get bored with all the garter stitch – but this is the perfect project for me right now.  I have chronic, severe tendonitis in my wrist, hand, and arm and knitting can really aggravate it sometimes – especially, for whatever reason, purling.  So having a garter stitch only project with striping for interest is really ideal.  My wrist is pleased.  (It still hurts, of course, but it is pleased, nonetheless.)

Anyone else knitting furiously right now?  What’s on your needles?

My First KAL (Knit-A-Long)!

I haven’t been mentioning knitting because I’ve been in a knitting funk.  After have some difficult weeks involving repeated trouble starting a new project, my darling cat attacking my current project, and general life busyness that got a bit overwhelming, I needed some time off.  I’ve been looking at yarn longingly and sighing when I see beautiful patterns, but I just needed the right thing to get back my knitting mojo.

Enter: my first KAL. 

While KALs are quite popular, I’ve never participated in one.  There’s always been an issue.  The yarn was too expensive, the pattern too intimidating, the timing was bad, and so on.  But, I have finally found the one.

I’ll be starting the Holla’ Knits first KAL today.  Well, hopefully.  My yarn hasn’t arrived yet, so I may get off to a delayed start, which makes me more than a bit nervous.  I tried to be responsible and waited until I had the money to order the yarn, rather than just order it immediately, and now look where that’s gotten me!  I do expect, though, that my yarn should arrive today or tomorrow – so hopefully I can catch up and my KAL mates won’t be too disappointed in my tardiness.

The pattern is the Holla Back Tank.  It will be my first attempt at knitting a sweater of any kind and I think it will be a great place to start – no sleeves!  Plus, having the support and guidance from other knitters in the KAL will surely be helpful.

There were two recommended yarns for the KAL.  I opted for the more affordable option, as budget is a concern right now.  Besides, I’ve always had good luck with Knit Picks yarn, so I think it will work nicely.  I’ve ordered the Stroll Sock Yarn in Midnight Heather, which I think will be quite fetching.

Pictures and updates to come as the KAL progresses.  I really hope this helps get me back in the knitting groove!

And, please cross your fingers that my yarn is waiting for me when I get home today.  I haven’t even swatched yet!  Eek!

Photos From Holla Knits.

My Workday Survival Tool

If my workday was presented to you in a pie chart, it would look something like this:

I work in social services.  I entered this field driven by a fierce need to know that my work (at least in some small way) makes a positive difference in the community and lives around me.

The moments when I am able to feel connected to that mission and see it working in action genuinely make all the other moments worthwhile.

With that said, for all the warm, fuzzy moments, for all the successes (big and small) that I get to see, there are at least 3 times as many stress-inducing, tension-filled, anxiety-producing moments.  It’s just the nature of the work that I do.

I haven’t even yet mentioned all the mind-numbing paperwork and data entry.  Seriously – when it comes to paperwork, social service workers can compete with accountants and legal aides any day of the week.

I tell you this in a lead up to sharing with you my secret weapon against the stress and dreariness that can consume large portions of my day.  If I’m not careful, every ounce of creative, energetic spirit I have can be sucked out of me by the time I get home.  But I have found a way to help temper it a bit.  A little something that helps me feel levity amongst the pain, sadness, and stress around me.

Here it is.  My secret weapon is  .  .  .  Podcasts!

Wait.

What?

Oh, you were probably expecting something a bit sexier?  More exciting?  More .  .  . prolific?

Well, I am serious about this one – however simple it may be.  Podcasts have been my lifeline on rough days. Specifically, I most often listen to creatively-focused podcasts.  Those that emphasize making, discovering, and exploring are high in my queue.  Being able to connect to this sort of creative energy amongst the gray cube walls and the two (yes – TWO) computer screens I work on throughout the day (between meetings with clients) makes all the difference in the world to my personal sustainability.

I wanted to give a shout out to and share with you some of my favorite podcasts.  Check them out if you can.  I highly recommend them to help keep you grounded amongst a stressful environment, as well as to foster your own creative spirit!

My Favorite Creatively-Minded Podcasts

What are your favorite podcasts?  And, how do you connect to your creative self during stressful times?

Here Is To Long Weekends and Letting the Creative Juices Flow!

I wish every weekend was three days long.

I know, I know – I’m sure pretty much all of you wish that, too.  I do realize that I am not alone here.  But I must confess that I have a problem – a serious problem.  You see, I’m a bit of a relentless, obsessive task master for myself and on any given weekend I will likely have created so many pseudo-important jobs for myself to complete that I have little time to relax (something I’m bad at by nature) and I end up harried and frazzled by the time Sunday night rolls around.  When a three day weekend rolls around, however, something almost magical happens.  That extra day gives me time to do all the stuff that I feel I need to, plus have some frivolous fun time, too.  This long weekend has been no exception.  I’ve been busy, but I am pleased to report I’ve done some pretty fantastic and relaxing creating.

I continue to surprise myself with how much I enjoy creating things.  Until recent months, I never considered myself to be a creative person.  In fact, I thought of myself as quite the opposite.  If asked to describe myself, I likely would have included terms such as left-brained, analytical, and generally unimaginative.  For so long I associated creativity with the likes of high school art class – painting, drawing, chalk, and magazine cut-out collages.  (By the way, I was REALLY bad in high school art class.)  This belief about what constitutes creativity was one of the few ways in which I was so very close-minded.  Happily, I have recently discovered that creativity emerges in a multitude of ways – many of them having nothing to do with a sketchpad or easel.  For me creativity has been manifesting in baked goods, knitting (of course), sewing, liqueur-making (yum), and bath scrub (yes, bath scrub).  Here’s what I’ve been up to:

1)      Crafting

Who knew I would ever be a modern crafter?!  But, I am – proudly.   There is, of course, my knitting.  I am currently starting on holiday gifts (I know it’s early, but I’m a planner) and I hope to get my TARDIS shawl cast-on tonight.  I’ve been positively itching to get that shawl on my needles.  Allons-y! (Any Doctor Who fans out there??)

ImageIn addition to knitting, last weekend I took my first sewing class and I must say that it was amazing.  Honestly sitting in front of a sewing machine was a bit intimidating, but completing my first (albeit very simple) sewing project was so exhilarating.  I have successfully created a small, but functional drawstring pouch.  I have no idea what said pouch will hold, but it will certainly hold something.  Spurred on by my new found inner-seamstress, I have promptly purchased some fabric to go back and sew up my second project (more on that another time.)

I am already trying to calculate how long it will take me to save up for a Bernina.

2)      Baking

This weekend I made this marbled banana bread.  It came out quite beautifully and very tasty.  It also happens to be a great option for a fairly healthy bread/loaf, and, its vegan.  I am not actually vegan, but I have found that I quite enjoy vegan baked goods.  In general, they strike a nice balance between indulgent and healthy.  Between sweet and sugar-overload.  In my neighborhood, I have become quite smitten with vegan pastries from Sweatpea Baking Company.  I am pleased to learn that I, too, can create a delicious vegan snack cake in my kitchen.  This banana bread totally fits the bill.  Whole wheat flour, cocoa powder, ripe bananas and brown sugar (my favorite of all sugars) combine here to make a satisfying and non-sugar coma inducing treat.

Image

3)      Making Liqueur

I am very fond of rhubarb.  I am also very fond of a tasty cocktail.  Enter rhubarb liqueur.  When I came across a recipe for making a simple rhubarb liqueur at home (with vodka, a homemade simple syrup, and Grand Marnier as the other components) I knew I needed to give it a try.  Now I haven’t been able to try this yet, as it takes 2-3 weeks to infuse, but I am anticipating shaking up a refreshing drink on a warm summer day.  Maybe a rhubarb-flavored gin fizz?  Or a rhubarb mimosa?  So many possibilities.   I’ll let you know.

4)      Shower Scrub

Homemade exfoliating bath scrub that leaves my skin super soft and smelling just as I choose?  I will have that, please!

I picked up Weekend Handmade by Kelli Wilkinson from the library a couple of weeks ago.  This book is full of diverse, modern, useful projects that can be completed quickly and (generally) on a budget.  Several of the projects have caught my attention, but my first to tackle was making my own shower scrub.  I am a sucker for a great smelling bath/shower/body products, but my budget rarely permits me to indulge in the ones I really enjoy.  I find that so many of the more affordable ones smell too factory-produced, over-the-top, and artificial for my liking.  So making all natural scrub to suit my preferences was a project right up my alley.  My first batch has been prepared with a delightful and energizing blend of grapefruit and sweet orange oils, with just a touch of vanilla for sweetness to tame the tart citrus scents.  It was so simple to make and is every bit as effective on my skin as anything I’ve ever purchased.  I anticipate making many, many batches of varying scents and styles in the future.

It’s been really fantastic to have some time to be creative.  My senses are pleased.  My mind and body have been fed well and I know there is more to come.   So, here is to long weekends, leisure time, and an active mind!